Gartner: Top priorities for tech CEOs to consider in 2021
As tech CEOs look to the future with an eye on accelerating growth, a number of forces will impact the definition of what it means to be a technology and service provider. And these forces will reshape how tech CEOs approach key initiatives, including product strategy and launch, customer acquisition, business performance management and corporate development.
That’s according to Gartner’s report Top Priorities for Tech & Service Providers: Leadership Vision for 2021.
Tech CEOs who understand and adapt to these key disruptions will be well-positioned to discover and respond to new opportunities for growth. According to Gartner, here are the emerging trends, expected challenges and next steps that tech CEO should be taking.
The trends that will impact tech CEOs
The first trend is that cloud infrastructure and platform service providers will have significant implications for growth. The spectrum of dependence on cloud infrastructure and platform service providers will of course vary by organization, but Gartner predicts that by 2025, 95% of the software application providers that consume cloud platform services as part of their product offerings will also market, sell and provision their offerings through cloud platform marketplaces.
The next trend to note is that free trials and freemiums will become the new normal for enterprise IT offerings. Service providers will adopt business models, pricing and packaging that enable these options as essential tools for customer acquisition. These models will transform ‘proof of concept’ into ‘proof of value’ for customers, and enable tech CEOs to increase their organizations’ ability to close deals.
And the third trend is that moving forward, it will be key for CEOs to predict how disruption and geopolitical change affect demand generation and customer acquisition. Long-term changes such as those brought by pandemic or the evolution of two distinct digital ecosystems, on in the US and the other in China, will inform decisions about markets, technology, investment and supply chain for tech CEOs looking to accelerate growth.
The main challenges facing tech CEOs
Although tech CEOs will face many challenges throughout 2021, Gartner outlines two more urgent ones for leaders to begin strategizing for:
- Positioning does not fit new market realities Thanks to the abrupt global downturn, reduction in productivity and pressure on technology budgets, tech CEOs must reassess their ideal targets and revisit their understanding of buyer needs and ability to differentiate in the market.
- Growing the business by improving customer acquisition in post-COVID-19 times Cost optimization will be a major initiative for most organizations in the post-pandemic world. Tech CEOs need to position solutions to capture ‘smarter spending’ initiatives to acquire new clients and retain existing ones.
Actions for CEOs to prioritise in 2021
Given the challenges tech CEOs will encounter, Gartner recommends CEOs consider these two actions to help move the organization in the right direction:
Embrace new technology, partnerships and application ecosystems to drive growth
Collaborate with partners to create or participate in ecosystems that can elevate the value and competitiveness of every party involved. Tech CEOs must be prepared to address four key realities:
- Buyer demands for whole-product solutions
- Increasingly regional technology ecosystems
- Importance of defensive marketplace strategies solutions
- The need for delivery supply chain continuity
Support the shift to contingent and diverse workers collaborating with AI in virtual workspaces
Adapt organizational policies and procedures to foster the agility and innovation of contingent labour and increasing diversity across the organization. Identify and invest in AI to discover scenarios where human and AI workers can collaborate in virtual workplaces.
To summarise, Gartner offers five essential areas of focus for tech CEOs moving further into 2021 and beyond.
- Cloud Tech CEOs must adapt to thrive in a world where cloud infrastructure and platform service dominates every market.
- Service strategy Leading service providers will leverage assets and expertise, requiring a dynamic ecosystem to extend their business models.
- Pricing models Free trial and freemium offerings are no longer optional, as they become a ‘must have’ for buying team consideration.
- Talent Tech CEOs must evaluate and adapt their talent management strategies to stand out from the competitive crowd heading toward 2025.
- Geopolitics Tech CEOs should understand and adapt to the dynamics of geopolitical forces for growth and market differentiation.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.