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KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook | In case of emergency…digitize

  • Mark Goodburn, Leadership |

For many years, some established businesses had an uneasy relationship with technology. Either skittish about costs or unwilling (or unable) to see how its potential could reshape their organizations for the better, its uptake was often times incremental. But that changed quickly in a few short fiscal quarters, as the pandemic upended business-as-usual.

According to KPMG’s 2020 CEO Outlook, a study that tracked executive priorities before the pandemic was truly global to their views six months later, a vast majority (80 percent) of leaders have seen their digital transformation programs accelerate during the lockdown. And this digital acceleration has touched all facets of business: from customer experience and business model innovation to workforce and operating models.

This makes sense to me. From educators to hospitals, governments to businesses, we have all needed to lean on technology to help us through the pandemic. Governments looking to curb infection rates, retailers serving customers without the usual face-to-face exchange, and office workers now working from home have all turned to technology for support. For many of us, and for many businesses, “nice-to-haves” became “need-to-haves” (in a digital sense).

One of the CEOs we spoke with for our report, said they have realized the equivalent of three to four years of digital progress in their organization in just three to four months. That’s remarkable. 

Digitizing the company changes the company

For businesses, there’s more to this than just keeping people connected to keep the lights on. As our study points out, the ability to deploy technology, affects so much more—just as the pandemic has affected so much of our society. Leveraging technology, executives can widen their potential talent pool geographically, reimagine their office footprint and even change their corporate policies.

In other words, leaders are looking at who can do the work, where they do the work, and how they do the work - thanks to their digital transformation. That investment can help future-proof their businesses. They can reimagine how their organizations operate, today and over the long-term.

Digitizing the company requires new talent mix

But in order to do this, executives are looking to their people to help lead this transformation and they are also looking for a different mix of talent and skills than what they have today. With the levels of disruption we’ve seen, there is bound to be a talent and skills gap.

And I think that is largely because of how companies have relied on technology, and accelerated their own digital transformations to confront the challenges the pandemic caused. They need the talent to match this change and fully capitalize on the new investments to meet changing demands.

Talent risk shot to the top of the list of risks CEOs are most concerned about, moving up 11 spots in only six months. This dramatic reversal shows how the pandemic has forced business to reprioritize, quickly and decisively. It shows you how quickly things have changed.

Ultimately, the right people are needed to choose, install, deploy and utilize all the new digital tools. And any organization is only as good as the talented people it has both making the decisions and executing them.

In case of emergency… digitize and prosper

As the pandemic has lasted longer than anyone could have imagined at the onset, so too will its effects have on the business landscape. What has happened on the digital front is so far just the beginning—no matter how impressive and widespread it has been these past months.

We are starting to get an idea of what our new reality will look like. It’s most certainly digital-first. Not since my days with our Silicon Valley office in the 90’s have I been this excited about what comes next.

Throughout this blog, “we”, “KPMG”, “us” and “our” refer to the network of independent member firms operating under the KPMG name and affiliated with KPMG International or to one or more of these firms or to KPMG International. KPMG International provides no client services. No member firm has any authority to obligate or bind KPMG International or any other member firm vis-à-vis third parties, nor does KPMG International have any such authority to obligate or bind any member firm.