CEO sentiment is positive as more of these C-level execs anticipate an economic boom (60%) than stagnation (40%) in 2021 and 2022, said Gartner recently when releasing results of a survey of senior executives.
Most respondents (35%) anticipate returning to or exceeding 2019 revenue levels as early as this year, the advisory firm noted.
The annual Gartner 2021 CEO Survey was conducted between July 2020 to December 2020 among 465 actively employed CEOs and other senior business executives in North America, EMEA and Asia Pacific across different industries, revenue and company sizes.
CEOs’ top priorities for 2021 show confidence while more than half report growth as their primary focus and see opportunity on the other side of the crisis, followed by technology change and corporate action, said Mark Raskino, distinguished research vice president at Gartner.
“This year, all leaders will be working hard to decode what the post-pandemic world looks like and redeveloping mid- to long-range business strategy accordingly, he pointed out. “In most cases, that will uncover a round of new structural changes to capability, location, products and business models.”
CEOs prioritise digital
Technology-related change was the second-highest priority for CEOs, Gartner observed.
When asked about their organisation’s top five strategic business priorities for the next two years, respondents gave answers in their own words. CEOs’ responses increasingly included the simple word “digital,” cited by one in five CEOs in this year’s survey, the firm said.
Digital capabilities was also the only category in which CEOs intended to increase investment in 2021, Gartner added.
When it comes to specific technologies, CEOs see artificial intelligence (AI) as the most industry-impactful technology, according to survey results.
More than 30% of respondents said that quantum computing will be highly relevant to their long-range business plans but are still not quite sure how, Gartner said.
Blockchain, 5G, AI and quantum computing are at the forefront of an emerging economic race between the US and China, with one-third of CEOs believing that evolving trade disputes between the two nations over these technologies are a significant concern for their businesses, the firm noted.
Expect a wave of M&A
Within CEOs’ third strategic business priority of “corporate action,” M&As were the most mentioned item, rising 75% year-over-year, according to Gartner.
This shows that CEOs and senior executives seeking advantage from a cyclical downturn are going shopping for structural inorganic growth, the firm noted.
There was a significant reduction in mentions of “sales revenue” within the growth priority category and a significant increase in mentions of “new markets” across different industries and company sizes, suggesting that CEOs are finding it hard to obtain simple incremental sales revenue growth using the strategies that have served them well in the past, Gartner pointed out.
“Techquisitions can bolster digital business progress, while also providing access to potential fast-growth market sectors,” said Raskino.