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IBM-C-Suite-Most-Disruptive-External-Biz-Forces-Oct2013For the second year running, CEOs around the world rank technology factors as the most important external force shaping the future of their enterprises, according to results from an IBM survey of more than 4,000 C-suite executives around the world. Interestingly, though, CEOs are alone in that view: CIOs, CMOs and CSCOs each believe that market factors will exert the greatest amount of external pressure, while CFOs (somewhat predictably) point to macro-economic factors first and CHROs to people skills.

While the C-suite disagrees on what is the top external factor affecting the future of the enterprise, there is more consensus when expanding the list to the top 3. That is, technology factors made it into the top 3 external forces for each group of respondents, as did market factors.

Significantly, CIOs and CMOs appear to be aligned in this regard, ranking the top 4 factors exactly the same way. That’s an encouraging result given recent research findings that indicate some relationship struggles between the two executive groups (see here and here for examples).

Overall, respondents to the IBM study (CxOs) envision big changes over the coming 3-5 years. For example, they see a greater role for social and digital rather than face-to-face interactions, also believing that they’ll be focusing more on customers as individuals than as segments.

Improving the customer experience emerges as a running theme throughout the study. In fact, CEOs see customers (55%) as second only to the C-suite (78%) in terms of the strategic influence they wield, even above the board of directors and the corporate strategy function.

Currently, 54% of CxOs believe that customers influence their enterprises to a large extent, with another 36% indicating they do so to some extent. And 90% of CxOs expect to collaborate extensively with their customers in the next 3-5 years.

Interestingly, engaging customers in social business ranks last on a list of current initiatives aimed at improving the customer experience, cited by only 38% of respondents. By contrast, more than two-thirds have launched initiatives to respond quickly to emerging trends (79%), identify unmet customer needs (79%) and create consistent customer experiences (70%).

Other Findings:

  • CxOs in outperforming industries are 62% more likely than those in underperforming industries to say they understand their customers well (47% vs. 29%).
  • Similarly, outperformers are 29% more likely to be focusing on improving the customer experience (54% vs. 42%).
  • 56% of CEOs surveyed said that they are opening up their organizations to empower individuals and facilitate collaboration, up from 44% last year.

About the Data: IBM spoke in person with 4,183 top executives (884 CEOs; 576 CFOs; 342 CHROs; 1,656 CIOs; 524 CMOs; and 201 CSCOs) covering more than 20 industries in 70 countries. Respondents represent a wide range of public and private sector organizations.

CHRO = Chief Human Resources Officer
CSCO = Chief Supply Chain Officer

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