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Digital evolution: what corporate directors and executives think

Digital evolution: what corporate directors and executives think
Digital evolution: what corporate directors and executives think

Summary

  • PwC surveys found a clear gap between directors’ and execs’ views about digital transformation.
  • Execs overestimate the directors’ knowledge of digital issues.
  • More execs than directors say their company is a leader in digital innovation.
  • More directors than execs think digital transformation is a process with no end.
  • Digital upskilling requires leadership (directors) and strategic focus (execs).

Findings from the 2020 director survey on digital transformation

The message is loud and clear — the future is digital. Many companies are investing time and money in digital transformations. But these shifts require focus from management and the board as well as alignment between the two. How well do boards understand management’s plans? And are boards and management aligned on these transitions?

PwC and Corporate Board Member magazine surveyed more than 200 public company directors on the topic of digital transformation at their companies. We compared their responses to those provided by US executives in PwC’s 2020 Global Digital IQ survey, and we found a clear gap between corporate directors and executives.

Here’s what we found.

Corporate directors experience a digital disconnect

Executives overestimate corporate directors’ understanding of digital issues and their level of overall knowledge and support of digital business strategies. If executives can’t accurately gauge the board’s knowledge level, they can’t effectively tailor their messaging around a digital transformation.

Bar chart titled
Director doubts about digital knowledge? Fewer directors say the board is informed enough to support the company’s digital efforts
% of directors
% of executives
Q: To what extent do you agree with the following statements about your company’s senior management team? Responses: Agree, strongly agree. Sources: PwC and Corporate Board Member, Digital evolution: what corporate directors and executives think, May 2020; PwC, 2020 Global Digital IQ, February 2020 (US respondents). Bases: 194, 260

The digital playing field: Ahead of the pack? Not according to corporate directors

Directors think their company lags behind competitors, but executives have a much more positive view. Executives are in the trenches day to day, so it’s natural that they may have a more optimistic perspective. The question is whether executives are telling the board the whole story or if directors are relying on their other board experience for some healthy skepticism.

Bar chart titled
Beating the competition on innovation? Executives are twice as likely as directors to say their company is a leader in encouraging rapid innovation across the business.
% of directors
% of executives

Q: To the best of your knowledge, how does your company compare with its competitors in the following areas? Responses: Ahead, substantially ahead. Sources: PwC and Corporate Board Member, Digital evolution: what corporate directors and executives think, May 2020; PwC, 2020 Global Digital IQ, February 2020 (US respondents). Bases: 203-209, 260

Is digital transformation a journey or a destination?

Directors and executives have different perspectives on how to define a transformation timeline. This disconnect could be partially due to a difference of perspective, with directors taking the long view and executives working with measurable periods.

Bar chart titled
Defining a digital transformation timeline
% of directors say the transformation will never be over
% of executives say the transformation will never be over
Q: How much longer do you expect digital transformation at your company to take? Sources: PwC and Corporate Board Member, Digital evolution: what corporate directors and executives think, May 2020; PwC, 2020 Global Digital IQ, February 2020 (US respondents). Bases: 211, 260

Getting your workforce ready for digital prime time

Digital transformation demands new skills, and many companies are upskilling their workforce to bridge the talent gap. Corporate directors and executives both see barriers to the upskilling effort, though they have different opinions as to what’s getting in the way.

Bar chart titled
Barriers to upskilling your workforce
% of directors say leadership’s mindset
% of executives say a lack of strategic focus on training

Q: What are the key barriers to upskilling the workforce at your organization? Sources: PwC and Corporate Board Member, Digital evolution: what corporate directors and executives think, May 2020; PwC, 2020 Global Digital IQ, February 2020 (US respondents). Bases: 189, 260
Governance Insights Center

Governance Insights Center

Bringing an informed perspective on governance

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Maria Castañón Moats

Governance Insights Center Leader, New York, PwC US

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Paul DeNicola

Principal, Governance Insights Center, New York, PwC US

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