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The 2022 Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) Survey

Corporate strategists look to fuel growth amidst continued uncertainty

Turning the page: All hands on deck

How can we strategize for what comes next, under so much uncertainty and volatility?

The past 24 months have taught us to expect the unexpected, highlighting the importance of adapting with agility. Throughout the pandemic, consumer behaviors have shifted, global supply chains have been disrupted, and the battle for talent has intensified. In addition, the business landscape continues to evolve with advanced technologies enabling incredible new strategic possibilities, and with corporate Purpose becoming a top-of-the-stack management issue in boardrooms around the world.

To better understand how Chief Strategy Officers (CSOs) have been helping their organizations address near-term challenges while positioning their businesses for long-term success, Monitor Deloitte surveyed 230 senior strategy executives from 35 countries globally. We gained insights into how CSOs effectively make an impact by assessing the differences in CSO feedback between companies that flourished during the pandemic and those that underperformed.

The 2022 Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) Survey

Growing during the pandemic

Navigating near-term challenges while seeding long-term opportunities

Not surprisingly, CSOs are somewhat cautious about how the external environment may be shaping up: Only 40% of CSOs surveyed report to be optimistic about the future of the global economy. Nonetheless, CSOs are generally optimistic about how their industries will fare (64%), about how their companies will perform (77%), and even more so about their own ability to make an impact (81%). So much so that about 80% of CSOs expect an increase in revenue, profit, or both over the next 12 months.

What could be the reason for such optimism, given the amount of uncertainty and volatility that we have experienced (and that we will likely continue to experience in the foreseeable future)? Insights from the Chief Strategy Officer Survey indicate that the answer is likely companies’ ability to adapt throughout the pandemic—most notably the ability to operate more ambidextrously, balancing the need to protect their operations and grow their Core businesses while making foundational investments to seed long-term growth.

Looking ahead into 2022 and beyond
A dominant theme throughout 2022 will be remaining agile as we react to the rapidly changing COVID-19 environment. What does that mean for the role of a Chief Strategy Officer?

  • Protect and nurture the Core
  • Incubate for the future
  • Become ambidextrous in growth both within and beyond the Core

Digital transformation

The convergence of technology and enterprise strategy

Accelerating a trend we noted last year, CSOs overwhelmingly agree (84%) that advanced technologies—such as intelligent automation, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, as well as virtual, augmented, and mixed reality—will play an ever-growing role as strategic enablers for their businesses. These technologies will unlock a significant change in human productivity, drive new growth opportunities with a greater level of precision, enable new channels to market, and make new business models viable.

Nearly half of CSOs surveyed say their company lacks the mature skills required to leverage advanced technologies. A few key challenges rose to the top: a missing explicit linkage between technology strategy and business strategy (42%), a lack of alignment on priority use cases and how investments in advanced technology will create business value (34%), and a lack of vision for how investments in advanced technology will scale beyond localized proofs-of-concept (30%). Those are, in fact, three critical roles in which CSOs are extremely well positioned.

CSOs have a strong desire to play a more prominent role in developing their organizations’ advanced technology strategy and making it intimately connected with their organizations’ enterprise and business strategies. Where do CSOs believe that they can make the biggest impact when it comes to forwarding their organizations’ advanced technology strategy and capabilities? A few actions rose to the top: explicitly linking technology and business strategy (84%), estimating and tracking value creation (67%), directing and managing investments (66%), and defining priority use cases (64%).

Bringing it all together
CSOs can, want to, and should play a more central role in helping their organizations evolve their advanced technology strategies. Here are some suggestions to help CSOs bridge the gap:

  • Strengthen your tech fluency
  • Build out the “architect” role of linking technology and enterprise strategy
  • Embrace the “orchestrator” role of harmonizing technology-driven changes in the business

Strategy with Purpose

Doing well while doing good

Corporate Purpose has been catapulted to the top of the executive agenda in recent years. Although Purpose is not a new concept, it has gained greater visibility and importance as consumers and investors alike pay increasingly more attention to the role companies play as it relates to the well-being of our planet, our society, and our local communities. Companies must serve the differentiated needs of all their stakeholders—not just shareholders and customers, but suppliers, communities, and the environment. Purpose has become inextricably tied to economic performance, competitive advantage, and long-term value creation.

CSOs recognize that corporate Purpose is a major area of strategic focus for their companies: 73% of CSOs agree that Purpose is a priority for the C-suite. And companies are making strides in defining and advancing their Purpose strategies, particularly in a way that is well integrated with business strategy: 77% of CSOs agree that their organizations have a clearly defined Purpose strategy, 77% agree that the primary focus of their Purpose strategy is to create value, and 78% agree that their Purpose strategy is well integrated with their Core enterprise strategy.

Becoming a Purpose champion
While Purpose has become a central issue for executive teams across the world, organizations need to evolve how they articulate their Purpose vision, how it connects with the heart of their enterprise strategy, how it will drive value, and how to communicate it internally and externally. CSOs are well positioned to drive this comprehensive agenda in collaboration with other functions in the C-suite—and many are already playing that role by:

  • Establishing a unified strategy
  • Bringing Purpose to life
  • Tracking and communicating value

CSOs look ahead

All hands on deck

As CSOs position their organizations in both the near and long term, they need to continue adapting with agility. CSOs should play a central role in helping leverage advanced technologies to drive improvement and business performance. They should also drive convergence between Purpose strategy and business strategy as a way of contributing to the well-being of our planet and society—all while delivering superior shareholder returns. The future may be clouded by uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, but it’s time for CSOs to thrive. It’s time for all hands on deck.

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