Are CEOs more worried about social media than market factors?

In the past ten years the way we live our lives has changed; Facebook, Twitter, mobile phones that connect us not just to our friends and families but to the internet and businesses. The immediacy and quantity of information we receive and the way we work and process that information have developed, affecting us both at home and work. It's created new ways for businesses to contact consumers, and new staff behaviours and expectations to contend with.

IBM's CEO survey sheds light on the way CEOs are responding to the challenges and opportunities that are presented by this new interconnectedness, from leadership to business change.

Unsurprisingly the CEOs interviewed said that technology is now the most likely external factor that would impact their organisation in the next three years. It’s the first time since 2004 that market factors have not been ranked first and this reflects the level of change occuringin the technology arena. For businesses, changing technology holds out the opportunity to engage with customers on a more personal level and gain understanding but the survey and report also reflect the concern of being left behind in the whirlwind of technology and losing market share.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic in the report is the 256% predicted increase in the use of social media in the next three to five years to engage customers, with social media channels set to overtake websites, call centres and traditional media as the way to interact with customers. This leaves a real challenge for a number of companies as they work out how to successfully use these new channels, and be sure that they are using the right ones. 

The survey shows that it is the companies that use the data about their customers best that are outperforming the rest of the market. Being able to access data, draw meaningful insights and then act on those insights is what drives performance. With the vast swell of data that many businesses are now generating, this leaves many businesses looking for the needles in a data haystack. Getting the analytical skills into businesses to undertake this work is a real challenge and one that many CEOs acknowledge that they will have to tackle.

With the constant change in technology and opportunities has come a change in what CEOs are looking for from their employees, valuing skills that enable change so that they are able to keep up with the unpredictable future landscape of technology. This is probably behind the increased importance of people skills on the CEO agenda.

Overall the research gives an interesting insight into the challenges that CEOs are tackling in the technology arena and which will affect company performance in the next five years.

IBM’s report can be downloaded at