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Part 2: How U.S. CEOs plan to use technology to beat the competition: Based on PwC’s annual CEO survey

PwC’s recently published Annual CEO Survey shows that to gain a competitive advantage, the majority of business leaders plan to use technology to provide a better customer experience. They also plan to improve operational processes so their businesses are more agile and responsive. In this second part of the series, we look at how U.S. CEOs plan to use technology to mitigate risk and exploit growth opportunities.

Leverage technology to create a flexible organization better at managing risk

While the PwC report shows that 74 percent of U.S. CEOs believe there are more threats to their business growth today than there were three years ago, 69 percent also believe that there are more growth opportunities today. This ying-yang relationship between risk and opportunity needs to be better managed—and in practical terms, that means being able to create and explore a range of scenarios, in addition to having a range of cohesive plans that can be rapidly implemented as events unfold.

In fact, many respondents said that the only way to be confident in what continues to be a highly volatile business environment is to create a flexible organization—one that recognizes risks sooner, is quicker at making incisive adjustments (such as changing production capacity or workforce plans), and takes advantage of nascent investment opportunities. Clearly, these aren’t capabilities that can be easily achieved if business planning is carried out on disparate spreadsheets or stand-alone systems.

Become a read-and-respond company that is quicker at exploiting opportunities

The survey also points out that being adept at mining and managing data is a critical corporate capability for successfully spotting and exploiting growth opportunities. This is in line with previous PwC research, which showed that data-savvy leaders are three times more likely to report improvements in their decision-making than others.

However, only one in three executives currently describe their company as “data-driven,” with many reporting that their decision-making is hampered by painfully slow cycle times. In uncertain times, it is important to make the sound decisions. But it is also equally important to make decisions quickly so that companies can establish a commanding presence in emerging categories and market segments before their competitors. Being able to do that means moving away from rigid, calendar-based planning cycles and moving towards faster read-and-respond approaches. Again, spreadsheets and solutions that can only be reconfigured by specialists are less than ideal since this more iterative approach to business management is a part of managers’ everyday lives rather than a periodic event.

Collectively, the findings of PwC’s research suggest U.S. CEOs are aware that they will struggle to deliver sustainable success in the next few years if they fail to invest in technology. Technology investment is an essential building block that will help CEOs differentiate their customer proposition, drive operational excellence, and expedite core business processes such as planning and forecasting to become both faster and more iterative. Discover best practices on how to achieve that for your business, by reading Harvard Business Review’s report, “Three steps towards finance-led integrated business planning that delivers growth.”

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