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How CEOs plan to use technology to set their businesses apart: Based on PwC’s annual CEO survey

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This blog is part one of a two-part discussion of the findings in PwC’s 2016 Annual CEO survey.

“More of the same” sums up what U.S. businesses expect for the next few years, according to PwC’s recently published U.S. CEO Survey. Though the U.S. economic recovery so far has outpaced those of other developed countries, U.S. CEOs foresee pressure on their companies’ revenue growth continuing throughout 2016 and beyond. The main messages that came out of the study are (1) growth will only come by focusing on customer needs, (2) be clear about what your business does better than others, and (3) know how you are going to get things done.

In this first blog, I’ll focus on two of the major ways that U.S. CEOs say they are planning to use technology to help them get things done in their businesses.

CEOs plan to invest in technology to set their businesses apart

With breakthroughs such as driverless vehicles and 3D printing being close to commercialization, CEOs are continuing to invest in technology both to differentiate their businesses and to drive operational efficiency. For example, though over 75 percent of U.S. CEOs said they are concerned about the rapid pace of technological change, more than half also said that innovative technologies that are still in development are already on their radar as being capable of revolutionizing customer experience and driving differentiation.

That is the more glamorous end of digital transformation. But improving efficiency by addressing issues such as infrastructure, integration, and authentication are no less important. For most business leaders, the biggest challenges are making sense of the increasing amount of real-time customer data, and embedding smart systems and processes that allow their companies to become more adaptive and agile.

CEOs must step up to the operational challenges

While companies in the retail and hospitality may seem to have more leeway in using technology to transform the customer experience, companies in all industries face similar operational challenges. One of the most crucial challenges is the need to move to real-time data processing in order to gain faster insight and enable timely responses to changes inside and outside the business.

However, many CEOs are aware that an increasing proportion of their IT spending is done outside of the IT department, in functions such as marketing and HR, so different business functions are not always working with the same data or sharing common assumptions. This can make it difficult to consolidate the data and gather full insight. But perhaps a more dire impact is that it can result in disconnected plans that quickly lead to operational misalignment and wasteful spending. Organizations that have already implemented a single platform to unify all forms of operational and financial planning have already addressed these issues, giving them competitive advantages over their peers.

This is key—the findings contained in the PwC report suggest that U.S. CEOs believe that improving their business’s ability to read danger signals early and enabling the business to move faster in response to opportunities are key to continued growth. Technology is a major facilitator in delivering these capabilities, and you can read about other ways U.S. CEOs are planning to address these issues in the next blog in the series in the coming weeks.

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