CEOs and executive leadership positions should be filled by people with technology career backgrounds, such as app or software development, if businesses are to be more successful.

This is the word from almost three-quarters (71%) of business leaders across EMEA, according to new research which finds international recognition that elevating technology team members into leadership roles drives significant value for the entire organisation.

When identifying specific benefits, half (50%) of business leaders highlight improved efficiency across the whole organisation, 42% recognise increased business performance, 40% greater innovation potential, and more than a third (37%) better customer experiences.

This sits against a backdrop of seismic disruption, where digital transformation – the way technology transforms or enhances business models – has been validated in helping leaders and their organisations adapt to fast-changing market dynamics, changing business models and employee mobilization.

During the pandemic, EMEA businesses highlight the benefits of modernised applications, for example, to enhance their performance and resilience.

More than half (57% ) of respondents highlighted the role of modernised apps to enable employees to work remotely, and more than a third referenced their ability to continuously push updates in response to the changing landscape (39%), and enable reliable uptime (37%).

In fact, more than three quarters (80%) of app developers and technology leaders in EMEA believe that without successfully modernising applications, organisations will not be able to deliver a best-in-class customer experience.

This is echoed by the global executive community; more than 80% of whom believe that enhancing application portfolios will improve the customer experience, which is directly tied to revenue growth.

“Business leaders have never been at the helm of so much change, so those with an inherent knowledge of technology and an understanding of how applications can help them adapt to any market conditions and shape their future performance and resiliency have a real advantage. Indeed, three quarters of the world’s business leaders agree that a ‘technology inside’ leadership skillset will bring success,” says Ed Hoppitt, director of apps and cloud native platforms at VMware, EMEA.

“From the tens of millions of people and students now working and educating from home to governments creating contacting tracing apps in months, to banks being able to scale to provide significant revenue streams, to businesses and retailers looking at digital platform options almost overnight, this pandemic has driven a decade of digital transformation in a few months.

“It is the ability to get these defining, business apps – that deliver information and services into the hands of users, where needed – that creates success and genuinely drives customer engagement. Leadership with technology in its DNA combined with a software-enabled digital foundation to serve up these digital services is a winning combination.”

Phares Kariuki, CEO of Node Africa, agrees that technology expertise is a key common factor uniting some of the world’s most successful business leaders: “Whether you’re in healthcare, manufacturing or finance, there’s a huge part of your business that is tech-enabled.

“For that reason, often the best people to lead organisations today are those with a background in software and technology. Who else can better build competitive tools and services for customers to interact with? Once considered a department within an organisation, technology – and those skilled in it – have established their place not only in the boardroom but in the single most important seat at the table,” says Kariuki.

A competitive advantage, born out of the continuous development and delivery of new applications and services, is also reinforced by the findings – which reveal that high-performing companies in EMEA have a more efficient and effective development rate of applications.

Two thirds (66%) of new applications make it through to production in high-performing companies, compared to 41% within underperforming organisations, while 70% of application efforts make it to production in the planned timeframe in high-performing organisations, compared with just 41% in underperforming.