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CEOs rank technology as most “transformative” trend


By Ken Tysiac

Businesses across the globe are eager to take advantage of technological advances, but their actions often can’t keep up with their aspirations.

CEOs responding to a global survey by PwC ranked technological advances as the top global trend (81%) that will transform their businesses the most over the next five years. Demographic trends and changes in global economic power ranked second and third, respectively, as transformative trends.

CEOs’ desire for innovation to capitalise on technology was clearly captured in the survey. So were their struggles to achieve their goals:

  • Eighty-eight per cent are exploring better ways of using and managing data, but just 28% have made progress with this task.
  • Ninety per cent plan to change their technology investments, but just 35% have this work underway or completed.
  • Eighty-six per cent of the 1,344 respondents plan to alter their research and development functions, but just 27% have started or completed the changes they are planning.

“Beyond the more immediate concerns about over-regulation and tax reform, CEOs see a host of new challenges on the horizon that they must address, driven by technological advances, demographic changes, and shifts in economic power,” PwC Chairman Dennis Nally said at a news conference announcing the survey results. “And quite frankly, they would tell you they’re not as prepared to meet these challenges as they need to be.”

Using and managing data is one area where many companies struggle. Many companies face risk in this area regardless of whether they try to use Big Data, according to a new white paper by global IT professional association ISACA.

Those who attempt to use Big Data face significant operational and technical hurdles. Those who do not use data analytics may place themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

“There are risks inherent in implementing Big Data, such as ensuring privacy laws are not breached,” Norman Marks, CPA, a member of an ISACA committee that developed the white paper, said in a news release. “But the risk of inaction may be far greater, with a company being left behind as its competitors embrace the technique to leap ahead.”

Data analytics is just one area where companies are attempting to innovate. According to PwC, successful companies are using multiple strategies to facilitate innovation:

  1. Focusing on breakthrough innovation. Technology can be used to create new products and services – and also new business models and processes – that can help a company leap past its competition, the survey report says.
  2. Implementing a robust innovation framework. Companies need to set clear ground rules on the type of innovation they want, what they are willing to invest to achieve it, and how they plan to measure it, according to PwC.
  3. Collaborating with a wide range of partners. Successful innovators collaborate inside and outside their own industry, and also recruit customers into partnerships, PwC says. Sometimes, they may even have an opportunity to partner with government entities.

Forty-four per cent of CEOs expect the global economy to improve in 2014, according to the survey. That’s double the percentage from the previous year. In this more optimistic time, technology may hold the key to driving growth – if companies learn how to harness it.

Ken Tysiac (ktysiac@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.