By Lynne Doughtie
What a difference a year makes. Two-thirds of the 400 U.S. CEOs we surveyed for this year’s CEO Outlook told us that acting with agility is the new currency of business and that being too slow can lead to irrelevance. Just 14 percent thought so last year.
With continued optimism about the state of the economy and the growth prospects of their own companies, standing still isn’t an option—especially when the speed of change and disruption keeps getting faster.
As they confront an array of risks that threaten the growth of their companies, U.S. CEOs are actively engaged in efforts to make their organizations more resilient.
They’re focusing on three key priorities:
1. Advancing growth through M&A, strategic alliances with third parties and international expansion.
The strong economy, low interest rates and high confidence are conducive for M&A and joint venture activity. In many instances, companies opt for joint ventures or acquisitions to speed the introduction of new business models or products and to secure access to new technologies and talent.
Entering strategic alliances with third parties is now regarded as one of the most effective growth strategies. In an environment driven by disruption, strategic alliances allow companies to quickly innovate and enter new markets. My own firm, KPMG, has a robust alliance strategy that includes partnerships with nearly 45 leading services and technology providers.
U.S. CEOs also tell us they are committed to global expansion, with 74 percent eyeing emerging markets, especially Central and South America.
2. Improving innovation processes and execution so their organizations can change in the right way and at the right speed.
Getting innovation right has become an increasingly important priority. Sixty-three percent told us that they need to improve their innovation processes and execution, compared to just 9 percent a year ago.
There’s an urgent need for organizations to develop mature innovation processes so they can respond quickly and appropriately to new or unexpected disruption – not as an extraordinary event, but as part of normal business operations.
What does a mature innovation process look like? It is integrated across the organization, with funding and formal links to business units and strategy, along with outcomes that are both tracked and realized. A mature innovation process is also optimized, making it repeatable, scalable and embedded in the organization’s DNA.
3. Investing in their people and emerging technologies.
Talent and technology are both key to growth and there can be a push and pull between investing in one or the other. U.S. CEOs are investing in both.
We’re finding that CEOs are reconfiguring their workforces for a future where smart machines and talented people work together. Seventy-three percent told us they now expect advances in artificial intelligence and robotics to create more jobs than they eliminate, up from 52 percent last year.
Many organizations, including my own firm, are now investing in advanced training as well as new technology to enable their workforces to be more productive, creative and satisfied.
Next year KPMG anticipates offering more than one million hours of in-person professional development at KPMG Lakehouse, a $450 million learning, development and innovation center. It is scheduled to open in January 2020 in Orlando’s master-planned community of Lake Nona.
In our study, 70 percent of U.S. CEOs said they plan to upskill 40-60 percent of their current workforce with new digital capabilities.
Advancing growth, improving innovation, and investing in people and technologies—together they can help increase the resiliency of organizations in the current business environment.
I invite you to access the full report here, where you’ll find more data, insights and ideas to help your business succeed.