Business leaders are no strangers to planning in uncertainty. As we approach 2023, a different flavor of uncertainty looms. Global unrest, supply chain instability, and soaring inflation dominate the headlines and point to an economic slowdown. Hiring freezes and layoffs, meanwhile, have hit the tech sector despite a still-robust overall job market.

A recent Forrester survey of US business leaders found that many are holding on to optimism. Most leaders across business functions expect at least some increase in overall spending next year, while many also anticipate spending more on talent and technologies. Lessons from early in the pandemic, when investments in digital innovation paid off while blunt, cross-the-board cuts did not, have clearly taken hold. Yet 2023 will not be 2020 — and will require a different tack.

Take A Surgical Approach To Planning

The best way out of a downturn is indeed to continue investing — but only if you pick the right areas. Forrester’s 2023 Planning Guides provide detailed guidance for technology, customer experience, digital, marketing, sales, and product leaders on where to invest, where to pull back, and where targeted experiments might pay off. (Our 16 planning guides are available for clients here; non-clients can read select guides on our resource hub.)  Our exact guidance for individual areas differs, but the common thread is this: Companies should prioritize investments that maximize revenue growth, profitability, and resilience.

While we encourage you to explore the guides in depth, a few of our key takeaways include the following:

  • Double down on customer insights. The coming year is unlikely to look like the 2020 shutdown or any past recession. That means many of your assumptions about your customers and their behavior won’t apply. Success in 2023 will require relevant, reliable customer data to help sharpen audience targeting. Companies also will need to shift budgets to higher-yielding tactics with proven financial value.
  • Don’t be complacent on talent. An economic slowdown may temper a white-hot talent market, but job-hopping — especially among digital talent — is here to stay. Don’t pull back on the talent acquisition and retention improvements you may have put in place, but look to balance these with a renewed focus on productivity.
  • Look to cut technical debt — including cloud. Yesterday’s lifted-and-shifted workloads have become debt themselves, given that they’re inefficient to operate and difficult to upgrade. As part of 2023 planning, companies should minimize legacy investments and duplicative or underused tools across the entire tech stack. (And yes, early cloud deployments are candidates for technical debt reduction.)
  • Dial up security investments. Geopolitical events and technology disruption will continue to fuel a sophisticated, fast-evolving threat landscape. Prioritizing security controls and solutions that protect customer-facing and revenue-generating workloads will be key. Defend investments that support cloud modernization and your organization’s evolution to Zero Trust.

Our 2023 planning guides explore these takeaways in greater depth and provide additional insights to inform your 2023 planning and budgeting. Review the guides and our suite of planning resources to tackle 2023 budget pressures with discipline and precision.