Most CEOs will “aggressively pursue” more agility over the coming years in response to the chaos of 2020, according to a global survey of 3,000 business chiefs and public sector leaders.

Emerging technology and empowering an increasingly remote workforce are how leaders plan to achieve more readiness, according to IBM, which conducted the research through its Institute for Business Value.

CEOs say IoT, cloud and AI are the top tools for delivering on the changing priorities, and subsequently now see technology leaders like CIOs and CTOs as much more critical to their organisation than marketing and HR leaders.

Get agile

56 per cent of CEOs said improving operational agility and flexibility will be their top priority over the next 2 – 3 years. However, many will be challenged by the difficulty of identifying a “clear impact” of becoming more agile, the report says, and there is a risk of descending into “agile chaos”.

Source: IBM survey of 3,000 CEOs. 2021 CEO Study: Find your essential

“[CEOs] should include a clear focus on business outcomes and guidelines that indicate where innovation will lead to essential next-level advantages—so that agile initiatives result in material, valuable changes and real-world impact,” the IBM study recommends.

CEO responses suggest managing an increasingly remote workforce will be critical to achieving agility.

“CEOs recognize that this new way of driving flexibility and delivering innovation can only be realized with an empowered remote workforce,” the IBM study says. “While 2020 amplified a host of strategic priorities—from supply chain continuity to virtually engaging customers—empowering remote work was noted by CEOs as their top concern more frequently than anything else.”

Tech impact

Source: IBM survey of 3,000 CEOs. 2021 CEO Study: Find your essential

According to the CEOs surveyed, IoT, cloud computing and artificial  are the top threetechnologies expected to help deliver results in the next three years, according to the study which notes the interdependency of the technologies.

The emerging technologies are also impacting the relationships between the c-suite.

“When asked to identify which other members of the c-suite will play the most crucial role for their organisations over the next two to three years, CEOs named their tech chiefs— Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) — at more than twice the rate of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs).”

CIOs and CTOs now trail only CFOs and COOs in terms of importance to the organisation, according to the survey results, a “dramatic departure” from previous studies, says IBM which has conducted the survey for 17 years.

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