The CEO Institute — an organisation that claims to be Australia’s leading networking group for senior executives who want to be better informed and more effective business leaders — has surveyed close to 180 CEOs from various Industries — resources, manufacturing, retail and importing — to try and tease out key challenges and concerns. Mastering disruptive technology came out on top, closely followed by hiring and retaining talented staff.
“More than one-third (35 percent) of CEOs said digital technology provides both opportunities and challenges,” the survey report says. Only 35 percent! It’s really hard to believe that any well-informed CEO today can see digital technology as being neutral. It’s very unlikely you would get that figure from asking CIOs. So if more CEOs are not aware of the disruptive force that is digital technology, perhaps CIOs need to bend their CEOs’ ears.
The survey also teased out some comments suggesting that CEOs are generally not as tech-savvy as they need to be at a time when the ways the embrace and adapt to ‘digital disruption’ could determine the future of their business. As one respondent said, “Because many CEOs are older, they may not grasp digital and technology issues.”
The report also contains some surprising and worrying information not derived from the survey: Australia could be a ‘digital laggard’. “The Fletcher School at Tufts University has created a Digital Evolution Index, which classifies Australia as a ‘stall out’ country. That is, its businesses have in the past shown high levels of digital evolution, but now risk falling behind,” it says.
Other than showing a chart of “What’s on CEOs’ minds” — managing and retaining staff (26 percent); mastering disruptive technology (35 percent); handling growth (18 percent); adapting to change (16 percent); boosting productivity (10 percent) — the report provides no tabulated details of responses to specific questions, so it’s not possible to gain any insights into how CEOs view relationships with CIOs and IT departments and their roles in helping CEOs manage disruption.
However when you read where the report drills down into CEOs’ concerns, you find technology- driven disruption at the heart of all of them. For example, one CEO described his key challenges as “people, people, people”, particularly in terms of getting the right systems in place to make these people “more productive”.
Some CEOs said they were not equipped to take advantage of digital-related growth opportunities, especially in an organisational sense. One respondent said: “Our challenge is in understanding digital opportunities and getting the organisation to embrace them.”
Some CEOs saw challenges in getting staff to adapt to changes brought about by technology. “Employees resist new technology and the associated changes to processes and ways of working,” the report said. “Some workers want to ‘retract into their shell and have things be a little bit more stable’,” one CEO said.”
That attitude is clearly not going to guarantee them long-term employment as disruption gathers momentum, but convincing them could prove difficult.
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