The New C-Suite Imperative: Partner with Peers Across the Business

2021 Survey Report


2020 was a year unlike any other. No business or organization was untouched by the effects of the global pandemic.  Working remotely became the norm, not the exception. Buying and selling behavior changed perhaps permanently. Supply chains were completely disrupted. And, digital transformation turned into digital acceleration for many companies. 

As C-level business leaders move forward in 2021, they are strategizing about the next steps -- and in some cases, the fallout -- from 2020. They are asking questions like, How do we bring the remote workforce back into the office? Do we need face-to-face sales meetings? When will supply meet demand? How do we improve and build on the digital capabilities we introduced last year? 

In addition, executives see a certain level of disruption continuing this year and are trying to adapt. In “Resilience is an Urgent C-Suite Priority,” Gartner reports that 85 percent of senior IT leaders strongly associate resilience with their 2020 roadmap, and 86 percent of HR leaders report a shift from designing organizations for efficiency to designing for flexibility. A major area of focus for 2021 seems to be addressing how they can be more agile when unexpected events occur in the future.

In Evanta’s Leadership Perspective Survey, we asked more than 2,200 executives what their business priorities are for the year. This data helps us identify  regional- or role-specific trends, recognize issues to bring to the forefront of peer discussions, and explore opportunities for collaboration across the C-Suite and the organization.

Why Collaboration Across the C-Suite is Critical

Based on our 2021 survey data and hundreds of conversations we have had with CIOs, CISOs, CDAOs, CFOs and CHROs, it’s become clear that cross-collaboration among C-suite executives is more critical than ever. With more than two thousand responses to Evanta’s Leadership Perspective Survey thus far, executives have indicated their top three objectives across the enterprise are:

1 Increasing operational efficiencies and productivity

2 Driving growth

Improving the customer experience

After more than a year of a global pandemic and business upheaval, executives need to work cross-functionally with their C-suite peers in order to achieve their goals. Executives are focused on how to keep their teams and processes productive and efficient. They may be breaking down silos, reviewing redundancies across the business, or being asked to do more with less while the economy stabilizes. 

Digital transformation accelerated during the course of the pandemic with record numbers of consumers shopping and banking online, utilizing delivery services and curbside pickups, and generally taking advantage of remote, digital ways to perform their everyday tasks. B2B organizations also performed their operations differently -- without face-to-face meetings and in-person touchpoints. C-suite leaders can capitalize on this opportunity to improve customer experiences and expand on the initiatives that were driven into use by sheer necessity last year. 

One way executives can drive their own priorities forward is by looking across the C-suite for shared goals, objectives, and partnerships. Here are some observations from our survey data: 

  • Across all C-suite roles we surveyed, one of the top three objectives is “driving growth” for the organization. How are executives partnering to achieve this? 
  • While CIOs and CISOs are likely aligned on “increasing operational efficiencies” because their departments often work together, they might not be aware that CHROs and CFOs are also focused on efficiencies and productivity. HR and Finance could be partners in exploring how to shift roles and resources to adapt to changes in the business.
  • Both CIOs and CDAOs are aligned on using data and technology to improve customer experiences. How can they work together to find innovative and data-driven ways to create connections with customers?
  • CHROs are the only ones identifying employee satisfaction and engagement as a top priority, but recent headlines about employee burnout and the unrelenting pace of change across all roles will require the attention of their peers in other departments. Employee satisfaction and engagement affect retention and recruiting, which will certainly impact technology, security, finance and data roles and departments.
  • CHROs may be the main leaders focused on return-to-work strategies, but continuing to support a partially remote workforce will depend on CIOs and CISOs, as well. In fact, Gartner research suggests that CIOs should be leading the organization in rethinking how work gets done and addressing employee productivity while working remotely.

What about C-suite leaders that find themselves as the primary individual focused on a specific priority, such as the CISO with “reducing risk”? That objective clearly aligns to their functional role, but is also an enterprise-wide goal. CISOs need support from CIOs and CDAOs to protect technology and data, and they also need to imbue security awareness and behaviors throughout the organization in order to be successful. With remote and hybrid work models, security is everyone's responsibility, not just a departmental focus. Even a functional role’s main priority can benefit from cross-functional collaboration. 

What are the barriers to working together? Gartner found in a recent Board of Directors survey that “organizational silos represent one of the most common and chronic barriers to digital business success.” In the same survey, Gartner found that “89 percent of boards agreed that ‘the crisis has increased the need for strong cross-functional collaboration.’” Disruption from the pandemic has created an opportunity and a need to work across the C-suite to succeed. 

If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into the specific goals and challenges reported by CIOs, CISOs, and CHROs, learn more in our reports here: 


As C-suite leaders learned during the past year, disruption is just that: a break or interruption in the normal course of business. That interruption was detrimental to some organizations and created opportunities for others -- or in some cases, a bit of both. Some business leaders found in it a rare chance to implement rapid change, eliminate old processes, and do things differently.

As they continue to recognize and manage the shifts from last year, it’s clear that executives are also focusing on some of their pre-pandemic priorities. In their strategies and next steps, cross-collaboration with their C-suite colleagues can help drive their initiatives forward.

For nearly 20 years, Evanta has gathered insights from C-level executives who participate in our communities. We ask about their top priorities, the challenges they face and the goals they set to add value to the enterprise through our Leadership Perspective Survey. This proprietary data helps them to level set against what their peers are doing, understand what their shared challenges are, and collaborate on solutions.  

For Evanta, our community members’ invaluable input helps us to develop discussion topics and agendas for gatherings that meet the real-time needs of executives spanning the C-suite. The survey capturing their perspectives enables us to ensure that all Evanta community gatherings are driven by C-levels and for C-levels.

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