Survey: Business and technology performance

Claire Beatty.

MIT Technology Review Insights’ year-end survey showed that 2019 was largely a positive year for business performance. Some 76% reported their business having met or exceeded revenue targets for the year, with nearly a third growing by 15% or more.

Stronger alignment of strategy and execution

The survey, completed by 587 senior business and technology executives worldwide, shows that stronger alignment between strategy and execution had the greatest impact in driving business growth, followed by the deployment of technology-enabled business improvements. New corporate strategies and the digitalization of products and services also had a significant impact for many of the survey respondents.

Which of the following factors had the greatest impact in driving business growth in 2019?

Stronger alignment of strategy and execution
Technology-enabled productivity improvements
New corporate strategy
Digitization of products and services
Cost optimization
Enhanced data analytics
Investments in training
Sustainability
Other
NOTES: % of respondents.

Fierce competition from established peers

Fears over widespread digital disruption seem overblown, as survey respondents cite traditional industry competition as having the greatest negative impact on their business performance. The second- and third-greatest challenges were a shortage of skilled labor and regional or local regulatory environments. Survey respondents have found the US/China trade dispute has had a more negative impact on their businesses than competition from digital disrupters, currency fluctuations, and climate and environmental factors. Commonly cited factors in the “Other” category included uncertainty in the US political environment and issues stemming from M&A.

Which of the following factors negatively impacted the performance of your business in 2019?

Established competitors
Shortage of skilled labour
Regulatory environment
Political instability
China-US
Digital disrupters
Currency
Climate
Brexit
NOTES: % of respondents.

Data architecture to support future AI

In 2019, the most significant investment or priority for surveyed companies’ technology strategy was data architecture. Nearly 80% of respondents picked data architecture as a top three priority investment last year. This paves the way for data analytics and AI which will become much greater priorities in 2020, jumping from 63% to 91%. Investment in digitizing products and services was the number two priority in 2019, but slides behind the Internet of Things (IoT), cybersecurity, and even blockchain technology as a priority for 2020.

2019: What were the most significant investments or priorities for your company’s technology strategy

Data architecture
Digitalizing customer-facing products
Digitalizing internal processes
Upskilling the workforce around tech
Cloud migration
Cybersecurity
Data analytics and AI
IoT
Blockchain
NOTES: % of respondents.

When asked which technology areas were not being sufficiently prioritized in the business, just a quarter of respondents said that they are already “focusing on the right things”. The most significant gap, they reported, is in preparing the workforce for a technology-enabled future: Nearly 30% said their companies are not prioritizing the development of technology skills in the workforce. Other gaps include data analytics and AI, mobile working and employee experience, and cybersecurity, some of which are likely to be become higher priorities in 2020.

2020: What will the most significant investments or priorities be for your company’s technology strategy

Data analytics and AI
IoT
Cybersecurity
Blockchain
Upskilling the workforce around tech
Digitalizing customer-facing products
Digitalizing internal processes
Data architecture
Cloud migration
NOTES: % of respondents.

When asked if their company’s technology investment is adequate to support regional and global growth expectations, less than half of survey respondents agreed. Nearly 40% said it was insufficient. Nevertheless, only 21% of executives consider themselves to be behind industry peers on this measure; nearly 80% feel they are currently tracking at the same level or ahead of peers for investment in technology.

Which technology areas are not being sufficiently prioritized in your business?

Upskilling the workforce around tech
Data analytics and AI
Mobile working
Digitalizing internal processes
Cybersecurity
Blockchain
Digitalizing customer-facing products
IoT
Data architecture
Cloud migration
NOTES: % of respondents.

About the survey

During November and December 2019, MIT Technology Review Insights polled its Global Panel members on their business and technology performance over the past year. Some 587 members completed the survey, of whom 60% were C-Level executives or Directors. Respondents from North America account for nearly 40% of respondents with Europe and Asia Pacific accounting for 20% each. The remainder are located in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. The survey is across all industries.