Future IT Report 2021: IT as enabler for crisis management


Current study: 74% see a bigger role for IT departments in crisis management.

  • This is the first time that customer focus has become the primary objective of the digital transformation 
  • Successes are especially noticeable at companies with more than 20,000 employees 
  • Cloud and Data Analytics have become widely established, the hype for AI is fading 
  • The COVID-19 pandemic and sustainability increase the relevance of IT organizations 


The role of IT organizations has expanded, driven by the radical changes in the economy and society due to the pandemic and climate change: IT departments have proven their skill in managing crises. More and more companies are recognizing their value – and they are adjusting their strategic objectives to the digital transformation. Those are the findings of the Future IT Report 2021 conducted by Campana & Schott and the University of Duisburg-Essen. It demonstrates the impact of the pandemic on the digital transformation in companies.  

Now, customer satisfaction and improved quality are the most important objectives for the digital transformation. Mentioned by 92% and 91%, they are considered more important than increased efficiency through automated processes (87%). For the first time, customer needs are more important than internal requirements. Here too, IT plays a large role: In 60% of companies, IT departments are developing own products or are involved in the development of technology. Three-quarters say that IT departments have become more relevant for future crisis management.  

IT as central enabler of sustainable management

In addition, the issue of sustainability is making forays into everyday business life, and it is already associated with clear targets at 74% of companies. But it is still not being linked to the digital transformation: Even though 83% of those surveyed are sure that digitization allows them to reach their sustainability targets faster, more than two-thirds still examine sustainability targets and the digital transformation independently of each other. 

By now, many companies are in the growing phase of the digital transformation, in which business processes and structures are technologically renewed and the company is addressed broadly. The preceding seeding phase with the testing of digital technologies is mostly complete. 

Hurdles to rapid progress

While more companies are achieving their digital transformation targets, they also encounter new challenges: The expectations of customers are rising, employees lack broad digitization know-how, and they are often resistant to change. This is due to the fact that companies are rolling out their entire digitization projects during the growing phase, which goes beyond the involvement of innovation teams and a small group of selected employees. 

Two-thirds of those surveyed identified the statutory requirements regarding data protection and security as the greatest difficulty. As in the previous Future IT Report 2020, this hurdle is considered one of the greatest obstacles to the digital transformation, in addition to the complexity of the IT infrastructure. They are closely followed by the required investment and/or operating costs, which 60% of managers consider too high. Compared to last year, these expenditures have actually increased.  

The digital transformation is no longer considered a threat to the business model

Data Analytics (84%) and the Cloud (84%) continue to be the most relevant technologies, while the initial euphoria surrounding AI is starting to fade. Approximately three-quarters of the companies believe that they have sufficient expertise when it comes to Data Analytics and the Cloud. Still, the introduction and enforcement of comprehensive Cloud Governance (66%), the integration of the Cloud into the existing IT (64%) and strategic multi-Cloud management (60%) represent big challenges in this regard.  

At the same time, only every tenth person believes that the digital transformation poses a threat to their business model – compared to every fifth person last year. Half of those surveyed have already positioned themselves in new markets. Collaborations remain a good instrument for success: In terms of the digital transformation, two-thirds rely on collaborations with other companies. 84% do so to increase speed. “Collaborations are well suited to strengthen the company's innovative capacity  particularly collaborations with research institutions, universities, start-ups and consulting companies,” says Sebastian Obermeier, Co-Lead Business Area Future IT. Smaller companies can benefit by creating networks with other companies to lower the barriers of entry for the digital transformation.  

The study

The Future IT Report 2021 by the University of Duisburg-Essen and Campana & Schott, a management and technology consulting company, provides a meaningful overview of the current impact of the digital transformation on companies in the German-speaking region. A total of 292 specialists and managers at large and mid-size sector companies from a wide range of industries in Germany, Austria and Switzerland participated in the survey. In addition to providing scientific statements on the status quo of the digital transformation in the economy, the study also supplies empirically sound success factors for the practical implementation of the transformation in the companies.