• Veit Schulz, Partner |

COVID-19 turned out to be one of the biggest drivers for digital transformation in history. As revealed in the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, companies spent the equivalent of around US$15bn extra a week on technology to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The impact of COVID-19 on digitalization and technology is significant and goes far beyond budgets as described in the following chapters.

Key findings of the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey

  • Focus is on Cyber Security: Security & privacy accounts for almost half of the technology spending (47%). At the same time, 4 in 10 IT leaders noted an increasing amount of cyber-attacks suggesting that the massive move to home working has increased exposure from employees.
  • IT budgets are under strain: Compared to the situation before the pandemic, IT leaders are less optimistic about increasing IT budgets within the next 12 months. This puts 2020/21 technology budgets under more strain, requiring for sustainable IT spending.
  • Digital companies pull away: Digital Leaders are more likely to make additional technology investments as a result of COVID-19. Consequently, there is a growing divide between organizations using digital technologies effectively to advance their business strategy, and those that aren’t.
  • Concerns over mental health: 8 in 10 IT leaders during COVID-19 are concerned about the mental health of their team, which has resulted in 6 in 10 IT leaders (58%) putting programs in place to support their staff.
  • Cloud investments are increasing: Distributed cloud becomes a priority topic with IT leaders considering implementation nearly doubling in 12 months (from 11% to 21%). Thus, infrastructure and cloud ranks as the third most important technology investment during COVID-19.
  • Tech skills shortage remain high: Companies struggle to adequately address increasing cyber-attacks with skilled professionals resulting in cyber-security being now the most ‘in demand’ technology skill in the world. Other scarce technology skills are organizational change management, enterprise architecture and technical architecture and advanced analytics.

COVID-19 has a huge impact on the way how organizations operate. As IT plays a crucial role, its priorities have changed drastically.

Business issues the board wants IT to address

  • Workforce enablement: In previous years, this has tended to be a mid-ranking priority for technology leaders, but it has jumped to the top three after the onset of COVID-19 (from eighth place before the pandemic) driven by the mass move to remote working. Operational efficiency and customer engagement keep their top positions, but the purpose of these have changed in the light of COVID-19.
  • Digital Transformation: For almost half (47%) of IT leaders COVID-19 has permanently accelerated digital transformation and adoption of emerging technology (AI, ML, blockchain and automation).
  • Emerging technologies: Small scale implementations of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have jumped up from 21% before COVID-19 to 24% now, a significant jump in a period of only a few months.
  • Marketplace Software as a Service (SaaS): This is the big winner compared to 2019. Large-scale implementations more than tripled from 7% in 2019 to 23% this year. One in six organizations put one in place in the last 12 months.

Remote working and the new deal for employees

  • Remote working is here to stay: 86% of IT leaders moved a significant part of their workforce to remote working, and 43% expect more than half of their employees to work from home after the pandemic.
  • Collaboration and culture: As a result of remote working, 70% of IT leaders report increased collaboration between the business and technology teams and over half (52%) said that it has created a culture of inclusivity in the technology team.
  • The new deal for employees: Work location & remote working has risen to become one of the five most important factors for engaging and retaining key technology talent during, and after, COVID-19. Leaders will therefore need to rethink how they attract and engage their employees in a world where physical location is no longer a prime asset.

Influence of the technology leader

  • Influence on the rise: Almost two thirds (61%) stated that the pandemic has permanently increased the influence of the technology leader.
  • Board membership: However, the downward trend for board membership continues from 65% in 2018 to 61% of CIOs, IT Directors and CDOs on the main board in 2020, suggesting technology leaders are finding ways to be relevant and influential without the need for permanent board / ExCo membership.


  • Women in Tech still an issue: The gender diversity of technology leaders remains broadly unchanged from last year’s survey (11%).
  • South America is a leader: With 16% of its technology leader’s female, South America has 60% more female IT leaders than the UK (10%). This could be interpreted as the reward for being a growing hub for female STEM entrepreneurs and actively running multiple programs to get women into the world of technology.
  • Promoting Diversity: 24% of IT leaders feel that their organization is successful at promoting diversity, and this has improved trust and collaboration in the technology team (67%), access to the right skills (56%), and their teams’ ability to innovate (53%).

About the study

In its 22nd year, the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey is the largest IT leadership survey in the world in terms of number of respondents. The survey of over 4,200 CIOs and technology leaders took place in two pulses - one prior to COVID-19 (commencing on 17th December 2019) and one during the pandemic (5th June – 10 August 2020), across 108 countries.

Register for the global launch of the survey!

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