Cost control has risen above talent as the top challenge for business

Cost control emerges as the top business challenge

Top 5 challenges showing year-over-year change

Survey question: What are the top 3 challenges your business or organization face today? Select up to three.



Talent remains a critical factor in company success, but it is no longer the top challenge many businesses are facing.

Instead, cost control and management has taken the top spot, with 33% of respondents citing it as their biggest challenge. Professionals at struggling companies are, understandably, even more concerned with costs. At organizations that experienced poor or below-average performance over the past 12 months, 44% of respondents cite cost control and management as a top challenge.

Cost challenges are forcing companies to become leaner and find ways to optimize performance, even on a tighter budget. “The need to control costs is motivating companies to try anything to become more efficient,” says Richard Matchett of Zutari, an infrastructure engineering and advisory practice. “So while cost control is a major challenge, it is also driving innovation.”

Although talent fell below cost management this year, it still ranks second on respondents’ list of top challenges. Attracting, training, and retaining talent is a top-three challenge for 29% of business leaders and experts, down significantly from 48% a year ago. Forty-three percent say that access to skilled talent is a barrier to their company’s growth, but that number is down from 64% last year.

Product and service innovation ranks third on the list of top challenges, followed by environmental sustainability, data automation, technological advancement, and digitization.

“It’s a balance between cost control and talent. How do you grow talent to meet demand, without growing too much—which creates the risk of needing to downsize later? Technology can help companies hit that sweet spot in the middle.”

—David Spilsbury, Chief Technology Officer for Axis Studios, an animation and VFX studio

The global economy and events, which ranked as a top-three challenge a year ago, has fallen out of the top five this year.

However, it is important to note that survey data was collected before the October 2023 outbreak of conflict in the Middle East. “The supply chain is the biggest worry related to global events,” says Callahan Tufts, design lead at Nexii, a green construction technology company. “Anytime you see a global conflict—first off, it’s horrible for the people involved. But it can also affect the rest of the world’s economy.”

The challenges facing organizations are not siloed, but rather intersect with one another, forcing decision-makers to weigh competing priorities—for instance, opting for only those sustainability measures that offer a return on investment in the form of energy savings or continuing to make investments in areas that are essential for the long-term health of their companies, despite cost challenges. “Cost control is undeniably important, but in the game industry, hiring and retaining high-caliber talent is even more important,” says Ji-Woong Hong, executive vice president of BF Production at COM2US, a mobile and online game development company. “Even when it pushes up the cost a little bit, hiring good talent will benefit the organization in the long run.”


of organizations have strongly increased their investments in technology to deliver improved project outcomes over the past 3 years—more than double the rate for overall investments

Cutting costs with faster rendering in M&E

One potential opportunity for M&E companies to cut costs is by using new technology to reduce the compute time needed for rendering. For example, lowering the time to render scenes can often lead to a decreased cost of computing. This becomes especially significant in situations where studios rely on cloud computing power. Tests of Autodesk Arnold, a photorealistic rendering program, found that the latest version of the software could render scenes much more quickly than earlier versions due to improved performance in multi-GPU scenarios and a novel sampling technique called Global Light Sampling (GLS). Rendering times were 3.7 times faster for a classic interior scene and 3.1 times faster for an automotive studio scene compared to a year ago.

“Costs are also increasing for talent, infrastructure, and software. The only way to overcome that is to create higher-value products, which gives you a better margin.”

—Milind D. Shinde, Founder and CEO, 88 Pictures, an animation and media company

Continue exploring this insight

Cost control: Global

Cost control: AECO

Cost control: D&M

Cost control: M&E