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Nash Squared 2023 Digital Leadership Report: A Sneak Peek at the Data

It goes without saying that technology has changed a lot in the past 25 years. Compared to the 1990s, the modern, average day at work is a very different experience thanks to tech adoption and advancements. 

This time of year gets many of us looking to the past, present, and future. And if you’re as fascinated by the intersection of technology and talent as we are at Crimson, there’s no better way to do that than with Nash Squared’s 2023 Digital Leadership Report. 

Every year, Nash Squared canvas prominent senior technology decision-makers to get their take on IT leadership, tech adoption trends, board priorities, and much more. The report now covers roughly 160,000 data points with responses sourced from experts within over 86 countries. 

What’s more, this year’s report represents a significant milestone - it’s the report’s 25th instalment. The first report was compiled and released way back in 1998, when it was still known as the CIO Survey. 

About the Digital Leadership Report 

Nash Squared’s Digital Leadership Report is the largest and longest running global survey of senior technology decision-makers and is a well-respected and authoritative report within the sector. 

The whole Nash Squared group would like to extend our thanks to all 2,104 tech leaders who contributed to this year’s report, 68% of whom are on the executive board at their organisation. 

This year’s report features some highly authoritative respondents too, such as Professor Dame Wendy Hall of the UK Government’s former AI Council; EVRi CTO Marcus Hunter; Shell CIO & GF/CISO Allan Cockriel; Meta’s Director of Product Sadia Hasan; and Editor-in-Chief at Computer Weekly, Bryan Glick. 

These high-profile respondents also kindly shared what tech advancements have surprised them the most over the past quarter-decade, what tech they feel had the biggest impact, what were their biggest tech disappointments, and what tech they feel will have the biggest impact over the coming 25 years - as well as what they were up to in 1998! 

So, without further ado, let’s explore a handful of this year’s most compelling findings. 

2023 Digital Leadership Report: Taking a Peek at the Data 

Tech Leadership & Board Priorities 

Despite this year’s turbulent economic climate, our report highlights that many sectors are still going strong – even experiencing significant growth. 

Half of respondents were optimistic about tech headcount, expecting it to increase over the next 12 months. This optimism appears to have peaked in 2021, with 62% of respondents saying it would increase that year; perhaps a spot of post-pandemic optimism there before settling back down to pre-COVID-19 levels. 

Organisations in manufacturing/automotive, technology, and utilities are expecting their tech budgets to increase by at least 50% in the coming year; whereas only 36% and 34% of retail and governmental organisations expect their budgets to increase. 

The board’s main priorities this year are improving operational efficiency, developing new offerings, and improving customer experience. This is interesting when compared to just 5 years ago, when boards were more focused on IT stability and consistency – something that’s now perhaps taken for granted. 

Driving Results Through Technology 

When asked “What type of project appeals to your CEO?” 66% of respondents’ answered, “one that makes money” over “one that saves money” (34%). With this in mind, 49% of respondents stated that big data and analytics generated the most ROI in the past three years. 

However sadly, a whopping 41% of respondents said their organisation was either slightly effective or not effective at all at using data insights to generate more revenue. 

It will be interesting to see how organisations’ data effectiveness changes and matures over the coming years. We feel the likely issue here is that organisations are simply drowning in data and just don’t know where to start making sense of it all. Merely collecting the data is only one part of the equation - having a data strategy in place, having the data literacy to answer the right questions with that data, and having the right solutions to help you do so, is where the magic happens. 

Cloud implementation was by far the biggest driver of tech ROI, making it into 70% of respondents’ top 2. It’s interesting to see that this development didn’t just happen overnight due to the pandemic, either – it’s the result of years of momentum. 

Tech Trends & Adoption 

Cloud, big data/analytics, and Internet of Things (IoT) are the top 3 technologies enjoying “large-scale” use at respondents’ organisations, with cloud implementation well in advance of other, more emerging technology on the list. 

For all of the hype surrounding them, quantum computing and the Metaverse are the “least considered” technologies in our report. Blockchain was the 4th least considered technology out of 12 options, with one respondent stating, “while there is still potential in shared ledgers, blockchain is a solution in search of a problem”. 

IoT remains a trend to watch. Despite its emergence roughly 40 years ago, the mainstream adoption of 5G connectivity is likely to accelerate innovation into new, interesting use cases. 

Only a fifth of organisations have AI policies in place, and just over a third have no plans to even attempt enacting one. Time will tell if AI adoption gains momentum in the same way cloud adoption has. 

“There’s No I in Team… Or Team Management” 

The tech skills shortage continues to hinder change within the sector, though the picture has largely remained the same over the past decade. 

Data analytics/data engineering was the scarcest skill in 2023, with hot topics like AI and cybersecurity surprisingly relegated to 5th and 6th place respectively in terms of scarcity. Though a quarter of tech leaders reportedly struggle to find the right cybersecurity skills, this is the first time that cybersecurity has dropped out of the scarcity top three in a while. 

As a global average, over 6 in 10 tech leaders say that the rising costs of living are making salary demands unsustainable, with Asian and Australasian firms particularly feeling the pinch. 

Hybrid working continues to be a hot topic in tech leadership, with the vast majority of firms mandating at least 2-3 days in the office per week. 

Gender Equity: Room for Improvement 

Given IT’s history as a largely male dominated sector, both talent and employers are increasingly focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) progress within the space. Alas, our figures aren’t particularly rosy on this topic. 

When looking at the average global tech team, only 23% identify as female. The US leads the pack in terms of gender equity but even then, their teams are only 27% female. The figures get even more concerning when you focus on the proportion of tech leaders (in our case, the respondents of the survey) who identify as female – just 14%. 

It will be interesting to see how both stats develop over the coming years, especially as EDI focus within the sector will no doubt increase. 


Thankfully, our data shows that fewer and fewer organisations are experiencing major IT security incidents since 2019 in what appears to be a fairly linear downward trend (despite a slight uplift in reported attacks during 2022). 

This data does seem a little contradictory to the more alarming reportage out there about the growth and scale of cyber infringements. However, we’re cautiously optimistic that this gradual downswing is a sign of things to come. It reflects the increasing maturity of the average corporate security posture and widespread adoption of smarter, more heuristic cybersecurity controls. 

This may also suggest that more organisations are now better equipped to shake off attacks that would have been devastating to them just a few years ago. 

Download the 2023 Digital Leadership Report Now 

… And that’s just a taster of the full report! We’ve not even spoken about companies’ plans for Artificial Intelligence, Net Zero targets, tech talent sourcing, and all of the data points that explore the fascinating intersection between tech and talent. 

Benchmark your organisation’s own progress against prominent global tech leaders today – download the Nash Squared 25th Annual Digital Leadership Report. 

Get Instant Access to the Findings 

Crimson is part of Nash Squared, the leading global provider of talent and technology solutions.