Gartner: 64% of boards are changing company structure to more digital economic architecture

A new Gartner survey gleaned insights from 273 people serving as directors or members of corporate boards of directors around the world.

Gartner released a survey of 273 people serving as directors or members of the corporate board of directors in the US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific region, finding that nearly 60% rank digital technology initiatives as a top strategic business priority.

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Boards are also increasingly interested in changing how their companies function in an effort to adopt more digital initiatives. According to the survey, 64% of respondents said their boards have "attempted to alter their enterprise economic structure to a more digital economic architecture." 

Gartner explained this meant boards were trying to accommodate digital investments by "changing their capital allocation and governance approaches."

40% of respondents said they have already moved some digital business-related budgets to business functions, according to Gartner, as opposed to a more centralized tech or IT budget. 

One in every three told Gartner that they have also changed the metrics that are used in order to evaluate the returns coming from digital investments. 

"While Boards are shifting focus to the role of technology beyond IT, CIOs remain visible as a key partner in BoDs' digital initiatives. One third (34%) of BoDs report having a formally constituted IT, digital or technology subcommittee, and the vast majority (94%) among them include the CIO or CTO as a member," Gartner added. 

The survey found that 57% of board directors have either increased their risk appetite heading into 2022 or are expecting to, with most citing economic uncertainty, disruptive models from competitors, or cost inflation due to supply shortages as reasons why. 

Partha Iyengar, distinguished research VP at Gartner, said that during the pandemic, boards realized they needed to become comfortable operating in an environment of significant risk because standing still "was not an option." 

"This drove them to embrace the 'try fast, fail fast approach,' and into 2022, BoDs will continue taking risks such as making technology investment decisions with incomplete information or making financial bets without up-front visibility around a guaranteed return," Iyengar said. 

"Having invested so much in digital business over the past 12 to 18 months, enterprises are taking a pause to validate their strategy and ensure ROI. For BoDs, the core focus is now on technology integration and creating a more enduring and systemic digital economic architecture, where technology is infused throughout the business and drives business outcomes," Iyengar added.

According to the survey, there are also increasing concerns about workforce issues, which found that more than half of respondents cited it as a top strategic priority. 

Board members also cited environmental, social, governance, health, and sustainability as top priorities. But less than half of respondents had any kind of diversity, equity, and inclusion on their meeting agenda for quarterly board meetings. 

"Workforce concerns are closely linked with technology transformation. As enterprises accelerate their digital business initiatives, issues such as the IT skills shortage, the need to create a digitally agile workforce and culture transformation become that much more critical," Iyengar said.