New IBM Report: Leading Through Connections

IBM recently released its Global CEO Study “Leading Through Connections,” which compiles interviews from over 1,700 CEOs in 64 countries across 18 industries, including the public sector. The report looks at how leading CEOs are responding to an increasingly open and interconnected world, where customers, employees and partners are all connected to the organization in new ways. This shift puts pressure on an organization to digitize and adapt to changes in technology, but also develop opportunities to innovate and lead. To outperform the competition, the report identifies three imperatives to success:

– Empowering employees through values

– Engaging customers as individuals

-Amplifying innovation with partnerships

Below are some of my takeaways, but I really encourage you to read the executive summary, or the full version. There’s a lot of excellent data and insights that can help organizations improve citizen engagement and navigate changes in technology.

Technology is #1:

The number one factor impacting organizations is changes in technology, in the broadest sense. According to the report, 71% of CEOs rank it as the most critical external factor, just ahead of people skills and market factors. Like a double-edged sword, CEOs see immense promise with advancing technology, but also fear falling behind. Across the spectrum, CEOs also noted that technology was no longer just a means to improve efficiency, but an “enabler of collaboration and relationships—those essential connections that fuel creativity and innovation.” The boom in social media allows organizations to engage citizens and customers individually, and changes how employees share ideas and work together.

Empower Employees to Epen Up Your Organization:

To meet customer expectations and stay competitive, organizations are working to become more transparent and collaborative. In fact, many organizations are encouraging a collaborative environment at all levels, including the C-suite. CEOs hope to see innovation and hard ROI by opening up their organization and empowering employees to share ideas and “think outside the box.” But how do you empower employees? A large majority of CEOs believe instilling the mission and values of the organization into every employee is the most effective way to draw the very best from them. Moreover, CEOs are seeking employees that are naturally communicative, collaborative and most importantly, flexible. With technology advancing rapidly, CEOs are unable to predict what technical skills will be most valuable, because they don’t exist yet. Therefore, they are emphasizing flexibility and creativity to ensure employees can learn from experience and keep up with the changing times. According to the report, 75% of CEOs listed collaborative as the most important personal characteristic of an employee.

Engage Customers as Individuals:

One common theme is that CEOs across all organizations are investing heavily in their organization’s ability to draw meaningful insights from customer data. According to the report, 73% of CEOs prioritize customer insights above all other decision areas. A notable difference from previous years is that with technological advances, organizations are better able to understand customers based on actual behavior and engage them as individuals. According to one CEO, the value of understanding the customer as an individual is not simply “about differentiating ourselves—it’s about how we can help our clients be different.” Despite, or perhaps because of advances in technology, organizations still struggle to fully capitalize on all the available data. Many compared trying to make sense of all the available customer data to drinking form a fire hose. For this reason, improving analytical capabilities and the ability to extra meaningful information from various sources is a top priority for most organizations.

Another common theme was the increasing importance of social media. Currently, social media is the most underused of all customer interaction methods. However, CEOs predict within the next five years, social media will become one of the top ways to interact and engage customers, just behind face-to-face interactions. Many CEOs noted that the real value of social media was not distributing information, but collecting information about customers to target services on an individual level.

Amplifying Innovation with Partnerships:

According to the report, 69% of CEOs plan to partner “extensively” in 2012 and beyond, compared to just 4% that plan to do everything in-house. In the public sector, 60% of organizations are partnering mainly for innovation purposes. For obvious reasons, becoming more open with external organizations is even more challenging than internally opening up. However, most CEOs saw it as the best way to stay competitive. To connect with external partners, the report suggests expanding the scope of your partnership to other areas of the organization (HR, sales, marketing etc), not just idea creation. In addition, they recommend looking outside your industry to find nontraditional alliances.


Throughout the report outperformers (in terms of profitability compared to industry peers) were compared to underperformers to see where priorities varied. Outperformers emphasized openness and collaboration 30% more than industry peers, and nearly 50% more outperformers are moving into different industries compared to underperformers. Not surprisingly, 73% more outperformers excel at managing change, and far exceed industry peers in translating insights into action.

Again, I encourage you to read the full report, which dives much deeper into the responses of CEOs. It is interesting to see how leading CEOs are navigating changes in technology without any specific direction.

The IBM Analytics Solution Center (ASC) is part of a network of global analytics centers that provides clients with the analytics expertise to help them solve their toughest business problems. Check out their Analytics to Outcomes group on GovLoop.

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Mark Sullivan

Thank you Amy. This is a very useful summary. I am curious about any insights you (and others) have about why organizations don’t collaborate, despite all the evidence that it is in thier best interest.