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McKinsey-Top-Strategic-Priorities-for-Digital-July2014CEOs are playing a more important role in digital-business initiatives, according to results from a global survey conducted by McKinsey & Company. Slightly more than 6 in 10 C-level executives responding to the survey said that CEOs support digital-business initiatives, up from 55% last year and 46% the year before. Expectations for digital are also increasing, with 35% of respondents believing that at least 15% of their companies’ overall growth in the next 3 years will result from digital efforts. So what are executives’ strategic priorities for digital?

The top strategic priority, per the study, is digital engagement of customers, with 69% ranking it among their top-3 priorities of the 6 identified. That aligns with separate results indicating that executives believe that the largest share of their digital growth will derive from customer engagement.

Close behind is digital innovation of products, operating models or business models, ranked as a top-3 priority by 64% of respondents, with big data and advanced analytics (45%) following a little further behind. Interestingly, while only one-third of respondents ranked automation as a top-3 strategic priority for their digital efforts, 1 in 7 ranked it as their top strategic priority, on par with the proportion giving big data that top ranking.

Spending patterns tended to follow those priorities. Respondents were most likely to say that digital customer engagement and digital innovation are among their top-3 digital trends by share of overall digital budget spending, with automation following. Interestingly, though, respondents believe that automation will decline as a top-ranked trend in terms of digital budget share, instead envisioning a shift to big data and advanced analytics. That may be a reflection of perceived under-investment in big data: just 52% agree that their current investments in this area are enough to accomplish their overall digital goals. By comparison, roughly two-thirds feel that their current investments in automation are enough.

Some familiar themes emerged when respondents were asked about the most significant challenges to meeting their priorities for digital programs: difficulty finding talent emerging as the biggest challenge, with analytics and data science proving to be the area where organizations’ needs for digital talent will be most pressing in the next year. This is supported by other pieces of research (such as this one) indicating the importance (and difficulty) of finding analytics talent. Respondents were less likely to see the lack of quality data to inform business decisions as being a major challenge – it appears from other research that the bigger challenge is extracting useful insights from the data.

About the Data: McKinsey’s online survey was in the field from April 8 to April 18, 2014, and garnered responses from 850 C-level executives representing the full range of regions, industries, and company sizes; 9.3% of these executives have a technology focus. To adjust for differences in response rates, the data are weighted by the contribution of each respondent’s nation to global GDP.

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