Only Half of Organisations Say Their Leaders Are Digitally Literate


Digital Transformation Barometer research identifies positive impact of digitally literate leaders and examines hype vs. reality of emerging technologies

Only half (53 per cent) of surveyed business technology professionals in ANZ believe their organisation’s leadership is digitally literate, according to ISACA’s new Digital Transformation Barometer research. The other 47 per cent either don’t think their business leaders have a solid understanding of technology and its impacts, or are unsure. In addition, the research conducted globally tempers the hype surrounding some emerging technologies, as respondents reality checked which technologies will be rapidly adopted, cautiously tested or parked for future consideration in the digital transformation crusade.

The findings were released today and paint a concerning portrait for the progress to date, and future of digital transformation across the globe. The Digital Transformation Barometer data delves into digital transformation and digital literacy within leadership, as well as emerging and disruptive technologies across the globe within several industries. The full research report, related infographic and additional resources can be found here.

“With this research, ISACA’s global membership provides a digital transformation reality check that assesses actual technology adoption plans, levels of sentiment of support and concern, and monetary commitments to deploy emerging technology by geography and industry,” said ISACA CEO Matt Loeb, CGEIT, CAE. “The resounding message from our research is clear: senior leadership needs to invest in increasing its digital fluency. Organisations with digitally fluent leadership are more clearly recognising the benefits and risks of emerging technologies.”

Research Highlights:

Digital Literacy and Receptiveness to Emerging Technologies Among ANZ Leadership

In ANZ, a concerning 47 per cent aren’t confident that their leaders are digitally literate, the data indicates. With nearly a quarter of these same leaders noted as needing a stronger understanding of technology’s benefits and risks, digital literacy of global organisations’ leadership across the industry and geographical spectrum is in question.

Despite the sense of urgency to embrace digital transformation across the board, less than a quarter of organisations said they believe their senior leadership is very receptive to adopting emerging technologies. Half of leadership teams are considered moderately receptive and one 18 per cent are not receptive.

Furthermore, challenges with digital literacy and receptivity to adopting emerging technology are not limited to the C-suite. Broader organisational challenges and cultural resistance play a role in the process of deploying certain digital transformation technologies.

  • Almost half of ANZ respondents anticipate facing organisational challenges or resistance when deploying AI/machine learning/cognitive tech (49 per cent), Internet of Things (47 per cent), and public cloud (39 per cent).
  • Roughly a third of respondents anticipate the same kind of resistance when deploying blockchain (37 per cent) or big data analytics (29 per cent).

Perceptions and Plans for Emerging Technologies: Hype vs. Reality

In ANZ, big data analytics ranked highest in the chance of delivering transformational value to organisations (36 per cent), easily besting AI/machine learning/cognitive (24 per cent), public cloud (18 per cent), IoT (11 per cent), blockchain (7 per cent), and AR/VR (4 per cent). Big data analytics was also the leader in intended deployment plans for the coming year.

At this point, respondents believe AR/VR appears as more of a wishlist item rather than reality as most organisations are not deploying the technology yet.

Globally, there are also specific industries driving implementation of certain emerging technologies. For example, healthcare and financial services have a higher aversion to public cloud adoption primarily because of regulatory constraints and security requirements (nearly 95 and 96 per cent view it as a medium-to high-risk). By contrast, the technology sector is far more open to the public cloud.

Emerging technologies tends to vary by region as well. North America (66 per cent), Europe (66%) and ANZ (73%) mentioned machine learning and cognitive technology as the most important emerging technology, while Africa (44 per cent) and the Middle East (47 per cent) found the public cloud to be most important in the emerging technology field.

The IoT and Public Cloud Are Still Considered Too Risky for ANZ

Technologies such as Internet of Things lie at the heart of many companies’ digital transformation, but, according to the ISACA research, many respondents still consider IoT and public cloud to be quite risky:

  • Sixty-two per cent of ANZ respondents ranked Internet of Things to be among the technologies as ‘high risk,’ and the number jumps to 97 per cent when you include an assessment of ‘medium to high risk.’
  • Seventy-two per cent of surveyed business technology leaders are moderately to extremely concerned about their organisation’s ability to safeguard connected devices in IoT.

“Emerging technologies have to be embraced,” said Loeb. “As the research shows, the reluctance to deploy them is linked to the need to understand and mitigate the risks of doing so. Organisations that implement a strong information and technology governance program will better understand their capabilities, which leads to more effective risk management and increased confidence in deployment of these technologies.”

To Deploy or Not to Deploy

Saving money and making money are the highest motivators for ANZ organisations to implement emerging technology, while reaching new customers, increasing agility and boosting reputation didn’t provide the same level of motivation to greenlight deployments.

  • Pilot tests and R&D of emerging technologies are rare or missing entirely from many organisations’ playbooks. Of the technologies being tested, the most common pilot tests or R&D were in public cloud (44 percent); big data analytics (41 percent do); and IoT (25 percent).

About ISACA’s Digital Transformation Barometer Research

The ISACA Digital Transformation Barometer research, conducted in the second quarter of 2017, surveyed 4,164 information technology, security and business executives, managers and professionals from a wide range of industries, company sizes and global locations, including Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, North America and ANZ. Results can be found at

Nearing its 50th year, ISACA ( is a global association helping individuals and enterprises achieve the positive potential of technology. Technology powers today’s world and ISACA equips professionals with the knowledge, credentials, education and community to advance their careers and transform their organisations. ISACA leverages the expertise of its half-million engaged professionals in information and cyber security, governance, assurance, risk and innovation, as well as its enterprise performance subsidiary, CMMI Institute, to help advance innovation through technology. ISACA has a presence in more than 188 countries, including more than 215 chapters and offices in both the United States and China.