What Are CEOs’ Top Priorities in a Digital-First World?

It's time for every CEO to become a technology CEO, as ‘digital know-how’ becomes the top differentiated skill for CEOs in 2022, displacing more traditional leadership skill sets

Josh Harbert

Oct 28, 2022

It's time for every CEO to become a technology CEO, as ‘digital know-how’ becomes the top differentiated skill for CEOs in 2022, displacing more traditional leadership skill sets.

This is exemplified in the findings from IDCs 2022 Worldwide CEO Survey, which found that 95 percent of CEOs report they are pursuing a digital-first strategy.

CEOs must take the lead in providing the leadership, technology budgets, and cultural changes needed to move organizations into a more agile, data-driven positioning so they are able to serve digital-first customers, wherever they may be.

Digital-First or Bust

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed customer behaviors, already moving in a digital-first direction, ahead by leaps and bounds. Digital is now the primary form of interaction between a customer and a brand, and brands must focus on addressing digital-first behaviors while serving customers to remain competitive and relevant.

Based on responses from IDCs 2022 Worldwide CEO Survey and supporting blog post The CEO Tech Agenda in a Digital-First World, every part of an organization must be reviewed to ensure it is serving a digital-first customer model.

Business and board priorities, spending plans, technology investment focus, skills requirements, the role of tech leadership, and vendor selection are all now being viewed by CEOs through a digital-first lens. A thoughtful and well planned digital-first strategy is required to shift from the digital transformation process, to running and maintaining a fully sustainable digital business.

If you’re a CEO and your digital transformation efforts are stalled or not moving forward as quick as they need to, you are not alone. Nearly 50% of CEOs report needing help with building their digital-first strategy.

Following are some of the key points from the CEOs in the IDC survey, and ways Delphix, the leader in DevOps test data management (TDM), can help make those goals a reality by enabling the kind of agile development processes and technology solutions needed to succeed in a digital-first world.

Skills, Skills, Skills

CEOs need to update and balance their skill development if they are going to lead their companies not just through a digital transformation, but in building and maintaining sustainable digital businesses.

According to the CEO survey, traditional CEO skill sets are being displaced because of changing market dynamics and internal organizational needs. When asked which skills were critical to success in a digital-first world, CEOs list ‘digital know-how’ as the top emerging skill, with business strategy acumen and people leadership being close follow-ups. When CEOs talk about digital know-how, it's not about them becoming technologists or CIOs, but how they leverage data and technology to develop and execute a successful digital-first business strategy.

Cost Management Meets Innovation

Even as global economic conditions bring questionable headwinds, 88% of CEOs plan to sustain or increase tech spend according to the IDC CEO Survey. CEOs report that the average proportion of revenue from digital products, services, and experiences are expected to increase by 11% from 2022 to 2027.

While budgets for digital capabilities are increasing, oversight from the board will put pressure on CEOs to maintain cost and reduce overhead to meet the economic downturn. CEOs plan to reduce overhead in the office, as 47% of CEOs indicate they are planning to reduce spending on workplace technology enhancements.


CEOs list cybersecurity threats as the top concern when asked about what risks would have the biggest impact on their businesses for 2022 through 2024. CEOs state in the survey they do not plan on pulling back on cybersecurity spending regardless of economic conditions.

CEOs should ensure that their organizations’ cybersecurity programs are focused on adaptability and resilience. Deploying technology like the Delphix DevOps TDM Platform will enable the use of data masking and zero trust security, two popular methods for deploying this type of modern security profile.

Hire Modern Technology Leaders

Just as the CEO role is evolving due to market and business pressures, so too, is the CIO role evolving to be more customer-centric and business-strategy centric.

CEOs recognize the importance of quality tech leadership to lean on, with 89% of CEOs saying it is very important to have the right technology leader in place to drive digital transformation.

If CEOs are going to truly integrate technology into business planning, they must develop a more direct relationship with their CIO. CEOs should consider giving the CIO a seat at the leadership table and having them focus more on business outcomes, agility, and delivering new revenue streams.

It is up to the CIO to evolve from managing IT, to building technology capabilities to drive value for the business. CEOs can help make this shift by establishing new KPIs for CIOs that align to business growth and development.

Moving Forward

For the rest of 2022, especially in light of an economic downturn and uncertainty, CEOs should be focused on creating new revenue sources and value through digital products, digital services, customer data, and digital experiences. During this process, CEOs will need to manage expectations from the board and stockholders regarding near-term paybacks with long-term success.

Vendors have an emerging opportunity to become trusted advisors for CEOs who need help building out their digital-first strategy. Providing the type of advanced technology infrastructure and architecture that can enable agile operations and data-driven customer-centric programs is a critical step in preparing a company for a digital-first world.  

The Delphix DevOps TDM Platform allows CEOs to accelerate digital-first innovation while protecting data privacy and security. 

By using modern development processes like DevOps and enabling it with test data for a continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) model, a multicloud environment, and zero trust world, software releases with Delphix can be 10x faster, with 20% faster cloud adoption, and 100% test data compliance.

Contact us at Delphix to find out how we can assist your organization in providing the secure data and technology architecture you need to shift your organization to serve the digital-first customer.