Businesses are optimistic about delivering growth for the year ahead, with the majority believing the newly appointed Government will create greater opportunities for New Zealand businesses to thrive, according to a survey of senior business leaders. 

Datacom commissioned the survey following the change of government at the end of 2023 to find out what senior managers and c-suite executives are planning to prioritise in 2024 and how confident they feel about the opportunities for their business and wider industry. 

Growth was rated as the top business priority by 35% of respondents, followed by staff retention and recruitment (24%) and workplace productivity (19%).  

Senior leaders from companies with 200+ people ranked growth and productivity as more equal priorities and productivity (36%) outranked growth (24%) as a priority among c-suite respondents. 

The results also show high levels of business confidence with 71% of respondents stating they believed there would be greater opportunity for New Zealand businesses to thrive under the new government and 65% believing their industry or sector would be championed or receive better support. 

Datacom New Zealand Managing Director, Justin Gray, says the focus needs to be on turning that confidence into results, which for many businesses will hinge on getting the right tools in place and anticipating future issues and opportunities.

Photograph of Justin Gray wearing a grey suit jacket over a navy blue shirt
Turning the current confidence amongst business leaders into results will require the right tools and foresight, says Justin Gray.

“The ability to look beyond today and anticipate future customer needs and demands is a big focus for Datacom and we’re working with many of our own customers to help them do the same. Being able to anticipate how technology and market changes will impact your business and your sector helps you better identify risks and opportunities and set the direction for your business,” says Gray. 

Gray also cautioned against overlooking the customer experience in the rush for growth and productivity.  

“It was concerning to see customer experience falling so low in business priorities (6%) but notable that this jumped back up to 18% among c-suite respondents. We all know it is important but when the focus turns to growth and bottom-lines, customer experience can get overlooked. In the medium to long-term a lack of focus on customer experience is going to be a handbrake for growth.” 

Top tech opportunities for 2024 

The survey also asked respondents which technology was expected to deliver the biggest opportunities to their business in the coming year and the top three were identified as data-driven insights to support decision-making (33%), workforce enablement tools (23%) and generative AI and digital skills training (20%). 

Asked about their organisation’s own top IT priorities for 2024, the three top priorities were identified as data at 34%, automation 31%, and cybersecurity 25%. 

“The focus on making greater use of data-driven insights and workforce enablement tools is a real positive and it is worth noting that AI and automation is likely to play a support role in the application of these technologies too. We believe generative AI and automation is likely to be even more impactful and disruptive than companies are anticipating. This is an area where we believe government, tech and business leaders should come together to better understand the opportunities and how New Zealand can keep pace while avoiding the risks.” 

“To do list” for government 

Boosting the economy was the top ask for the new government, with 72% of respondents identifying that as the top focus area for government. That figure was even higher for respondents from companies with 200+ employees, with 94% pinpointing boosting the economy was the number one job for government. 

Photograph of the Beehive in Wellington
Boosting the economy is the number one job for government, according to 94% of survey respondents.

Improving public services and climate change were the next identified priorities but with much lower support – improve public services was a priority for 31% of respondents and climate change was a priority for 17%, although this jumped up to 24% for companies with 200+ employees. 

Results around organisations’ own ESG and climate response activities and commitments were mixed. 

More companies with 100-199 employees had a clear and measurable ESG strategy in place (64%), compared to just 53% of companies with 200+ employees having an ESG strategy in place.  

Asked what their organisations were doing to help reduce environmental impact, the most common areas of activity were improved onsite practices (47%) and then renewable energy (34%). 

More than three quarters of all businesses (76%) had not made a commitment to being net carbon neutral by a specific date and, of those that had, 7% were “by 2030” and 6% were “beyond 2035”. 

The future of hybrid work 

The future of the hybrid work model is not clear cut, according to survey results. 

While 40% of respondents said they would continue to support a hybrid work model, 27% said they did not support it.  

A further 28% either had not yet made a decision about retaining hybrid models or were currently supporting it but looking at a full return to the office within the next 18 months or were looking at introducing mandatory days in the office. 

“Whatever model companies choose – hybrid or not – the deciding factor for workplace productivity and creating positive experiences for both employees and customers comes down to having the right physical work environment and platforms and tools in place to make it easy to communicate, to interact with their wider team and to get the help they need, when they need it,” says Gray. 

The results come from a Datacom-commissioned survey of 200 senior business leaders (C-suite, senior managers, IT managers) working in New Zealand organisations with 100+ employees, conducted in December 2023 by Curia Market Research. 

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