Crowe’s purpose is to enable clients to make smarter decisions that deliver lasting value for their organizations.

We understand organizational decisions come in many guises, and value can mean different things to different stakeholders.

In 2018, we launched the first Art of Smart report with the aim of providing analysis and insights to help our clients in their everyday decision-making processes. We sought to do this by examining leading public companies and their performance related to attitudes and actions around the diversity agenda, approach to growth, their appetite for boldness, and – finally – how and where they had demonstrated innovation. These four factors have been widely acknowledged for some time as significant contributors to making smarter decisions.

This year we have evolved our reporting approach to meet the needs of the times.

2021 continues to be an extremely challenging year for many sectors. Society and organizations have faced severe and unprecedented challenges. This has meant for many leaders that boldness and innovation have become necessities, not for growth, but for survival. To reflect this widespread challenge, this year’s Art of Smart looks further afield, broadening the sectors covered – healthcare, manufacturing, real estate, financial services, non-profit, and tourism and leisure – as well as the types of organizations, to include public, private and non-profits.

The Art of Smart campaign itself has evolved to be a longer, sustained campaign which continues to monitor the challenges facing business, provide perspective, and bring discussion points to the surface throughout the year.

Trend 1: Cyber-attack preparedness and user awareness is poor


Only one-third of shortlisted organizations have adopted measures or introduced initiatives with the objective to increase cybersecurity. Hence, organizations must be bolder to protect their assets from cyber threats.


Just 24 per cent of organizations focus on optimizing cybersecurity prevention, reports the Ponemon Institute, despite 70 per cent of security professionals believing preventing attacks strengthens security posture.

Example of bold implementation:

Employee cyber risk management organization Kymatio’s digital exposure module determines how employees are exposed to social media-oriented phishing, hacktivism, and so on. Finding the level of individual exposure enables automated delivery of fully personalized recommendations to reduce threats.

Trend 2: More hackers and hacker platforms should be used to identify cyber vulnerabilities


Increasingly, major organizations – including most of the biggest technology companies – use hacker platforms. Some 195 vulnerabilities were identified following a 2019 bug bounty initiative announced by the European Commission and co-facilitated by hacker communities Intigriti and HackerOne.

Example of innovative implementation:

GitLab started using public bug bounty programmes in 2018, and it has proved to be money well spent. Any hacker that reports vulnerabilities or bugs that are seen to be of medium, high or critical risk are rewarded with US$1,000.

Trend 3: Organizations must tighten their data privacy policies – or pay the heavy cost


Around the world regulations regarding data privacy have been tightening in recent years. The sudden move to mass remote working – where many workers are using personal devices – has increased possible attack vectors for cyber criminals. Only two organizations studied have implemented innovative zero-trust network access to increase data privacy and security. Others have introduced biometric or remote working-related solutions to increase cyber security, but more could – and should – be done by many organizations.


Since the European Union launched the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 more than 60 jurisdictions around the world have tightened up privacy and data protection laws. To improve data management and limit breaches some progressive organizations have introduced zero-trust network access. This empowers organizations to control remote access to specific internal and external applications and data.

Example of innovative implementation:

Snowflake's Dynamic Data Masking protects sensitive data from unauthorized changes or exposure. It enables granular control over employees’ viewing permissions to support a company's data governance model.

Trend 4: Mass home-working will remain – time to employ a head of remote?

Over 50 of the organizations assessed have accelerated bold policies to facilitate either fully remote working or hybrid working – where staff work partly in the office and partly at home – after the coronavirus pandemic. The most progressive companies have taken steps to enable virtual communication and training while increasing both employee engagement and staff well-being. Information technology companies are most likely to adopt remote working, according to The Art of Smart research.


Some 88 per cent of organizations encouraged staff to work from home during the coronavirus crisis, and 97 per cent immediately cancelled all work-related travel at the start of the pandemic.

Example of bold implementation:

GitLab has a Head of Remote. The company, which makes an application that enables developers to collaborate while writing and launching software, has no physical headquarters. Instead, it consists of 1,300 employees spread across 67 countries.

Trend 5: Collaboration and partnerships are essential for SMEs

To improve business continuity during and after the coronavirus crisis, and speed up digital transformation plans, some 33 companies assessed have entered partnerships. Additionally, many organizations have taken advantage of government support.


The World Bank has identified hundreds of support instruments rolled out by countries to support SMEs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – 594 for debt financing, 358 for employment support, 314 for tax support and 136 for business costs.

Example of growth implementation:

PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia Tbk has integrated three core ecosystems – market, digital and village – to accelerate the digital transformation of the country's SME sector. Bank BRI is a 70 per cent government-owned operating firm.

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