Leave it to IBM to muscle up a survey that gets the face-to-face participation of more than 1,700 CEOs worldwide. In its 2012 Global CEO study, IBM found that while many of the methodologies and technologies that CEOs typically discuss as driving forces for the future of business are still valid, the new keys to the top performing organizations are openness and collaboration. These are two areas where IT is uniquely positioned to contribute.
IBM defines three "essential imperatives" for the most successful business. Here they are:
1. Empowering employees through values
2. Engaging customers as individuals
3. Amplifying innovation through partnerships
Technology’s Impact on Organizational Values
Since 2004, technology factors have become increasingly higher profile in each successive survey performed by IBM. In 2012, technology issues became the number one issue, with 71% of CEOs identifying technology change as the most significant issue that they will need to address over the next three years. Meanwhile, historical top finishers in CEOs’ set of issues still rank high: people skills are a key factor for 69% of CEOs and market factors are integral for 68% of CEOs. It seems that things haven’t changed as much as they have evolved.
Interestingly, technology is what ties together the top two CEO concerns. Collaboration tools, ranging from straight collaborative workflow to social media, is what can enable more effective engagement with customers and employees.
This fact is a reflection of the fact that technology is changing the way that people interact, both inside and outside their companies. This helps to explain why it is so important to empower employees through values. The more interconnected things get, the more impact the connections and collaboration have on every business activity. Assuring that all employees understand the values that their company represents means that they will be reflected throughout collaborative efforts.
Increasing Organizational Engagement Through IT
IT's role isn't just left in some technological silo. According to the survey, the second most important organizational factor for CEOs is a collaborative environment. At 63% it's just a small step down from CEO's number one concern in this area, ethics and values.
Even in finding ways to engage customers as individuals, you can see how technology has to play a role, with 73% of CEOs ranking customer insights as the most important part of the customer interaction, garnering almost half again as many responses as the second highest ranked criteria, operations (50%).
Technology, in the form of collaborative efforts and business analytics, allows CEOs to engage their customers as individuals in a way that would simply be impossible without the tools that allow rapid interaction between vendor and customer. CEOs know that, as important as it is to engage the customer and understand their needs, responding to those needs is what will make them successful, with 72% of CEOs highlighting those two issues as key.
Power of IT Partnerships
Finally, almost 70% of the CEOs reported that they are looking for partnerships to drive business over the next few years. Partnerships give many of the CEOs the feeling that they will be more responsive to their markets and, with external collaborations, deliver to their customers more quickly and effectively than would otherwise be possible.
IBM took a look at not just the CEOs' answers to their questions but also the performance of their businesses as compared to their peers. In this case when comparing the outperforming group to the underperformers, IBM found that over 70% of the top performers excelled at managing change, and that almost 85% did a better job of translating their business insights into actions. These aren’t hard numbers to interpret. Finding and seizing opportunity remains the hallmark of an effective CEO.