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Fresh Thinking on IT Operations for 100,000 Industry Executives

Since IBM launched the Smarter Planet initiative in November 2008, we have seen a consistent linkage of data analytics and analysis driving better and smarted business and societal behaviours. A new IBM global study of midmarket Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) indicates that nearly twice as many midmarket CEOs see creating a more collaborative work environment with a higher level of openness and transparency as a top priority compared to the findings from the IBM CEO study conducted in 2010.

This seems to indicate that two key social change are having a major effect on business – Social Media and the Consumerisation of IT. According to the IBM study, a total of 45 percent of midmarket CEOs see the need to create a more open business environment, a close to 50 percent jump from two years ago.

Additionally, nearly 70 percent of midmarket CEOs aim to partner extensively with other companies as external relationships will play a more critical role to CEOs’ overall business strategies; 64 percent of midmarket CEOs are focused on creating a more collaborative environment to engage employees with a new way of making faster and better decisions in an increasingly changing business environment; and 71 percent are focused on improving their understanding of individual customer needs.

Two big takeaways here – mid-market companies are seeing partnering as a competitive advantage – not doing it all themselves. This will need better tools and processes for collaboration and management. Secondly Social Media adoption by business is in its infancy and is as inevitable as conventional printed and broadcast media is today.

CEOs also discussed the whirlwind of “social” change they’re witnessing. Facebook, Renren, Twitter, Weibo, Foursquare and other social media upstarts have changed the way products and services are marketed to consumers.  Despite the surge in social media adoption around the world, only 15 percent of midmarket CEOs are using social media platforms to connect with the individual consumer today. Three to five years from now, that number is poised to spike to 50 percent.

Another change lauded to here is  move away from broadcast style engagement (driven by the technology of printed and broadcast media) to interactive engagement with individuals. Extremely powerful and an area we just don’t have enough data on or enough experience of to show best practice.

Market dynamics and technological advances continue to force more organizational change, significantly impacting how midmarket businesses engage with customers and employees and drive innovation.  Midmarket CEOs are now looking to technology not only to make them more efficient but also to enable increased collaboration and create relationships – essential connections to fuel creativity.

Driving business decisions directly from customer interaction is likely to lead to a world that demand mass customisation rather than mass production. Watch this space.

Rising complexity and escalating competition have also made partnering a core innovation strategy for many organizations.  As midmarket businesses become more geographically diverse and interact with other organizations, the importance of sustaining a collaborative business culture will only continue to grow. Those that are perceived to be collaborative often find it easier to partner with other successful companies.  In fact, about 50 percent of midmarket CEOs see partnering or collaborating as a way to stay on the path of innovation.

Geographic separation from customers, suppliers and partners is becoming more and more viable as digital commerce opens markets and drives innovation. Collaboration is a critical success factor here.

In addition, given the market pressures to operate with greater openness and transparency, CEOs are looking for employees who will thrive in this kind of atmosphere. CEOs are increasingly focused on finding top talent with the ability to constantly reinvent themselves. These employees are comfortable with change; they learn as they go, often from others’ experiences.  CEOs regard interpersonal skills of collaboration (72 percent), communication (68 percent), creativity (58 percent) and flexibility (66 percent) as key drivers of employee success to operate in a more complex, interconnected environment.

A culture of full on customer engagement and mass customisation of product or service needs a flexible and skilled workforce, not a set of office drones following a laid down and inflexible business process.

Organisations are under intense pressure to respond to not only how customers want products and services delivered, but also when and where. Businesses can profit from unique insights they discover about customers. In fact, 65 percent of midmarket CEOs identify customer insights as the most critical investment area.

This demands 360 degree engagement with customers showing yet again that broadcast engagement will no longer work

To effectively engage individual consumers and clients, organizations must weave together insights about the whole person from a variety of sources. Mid-market CEOs will need stronger analytics capabilities to uncover patterns and to act on insights.