The last 20 years have seen unprecedented changes in technology and the next 20 are looking equally dynamic. While mobile and cloud computing and the Internet of Things mature and become ubiquitous, there is a new wave of transformation emerging from artificial intelligence, virtual reality and robotics bringing hitherto futuristic concepts into our day-to-day lives both at work and at home. Technology has become a vital component of every industry, and in this, our 20th CEO Survey, we asked technology industry CEOs what they’re excited about, what worries them and how they see their industry and their businesses moving forward.
Slightly more optimistic than CEOs from other industries, 82% of tech CEOs think global economic growth will improve or stay the same over the next year, with half confident that it will at least stay the same. This is a slight improvement over the 78% from last year.
But when asked about their own prospects for growth, tech CEOs are much more optimistic, with 87% saying they are very or somewhat confident of revenue growth in the next 12 months. When asked about prospects over the next three years, that number jumps to 91%. Clearly, the increasingly vital role technology plays in all industries is driving this confidence.
With sensors embedded in everything from refrigerators to tractors, and software becoming a key component of automobiles and medical devices, the growth opportunities for technology companies in all subsectors are many and varied. This is clearly reflected in tech CEOs’ growth plans for the next year and beyond. Organic growth and strategic alliances are two of the top three strategies. So whether it’s the next big thing in tech—artificial intelligence and robotics—or an alliance with a partner in another industry such as healthcare or industrial manufacturing, tech CEOs see plenty of opportunity for their companies to thrive.
And while cost reduction remains a priority, second on the list, it’s not nearly as important to tech CEOs as it is to CEOs overall (53% vs. 62% overall).
It’s no coincidence that tech CEOs cite the availability of key skills as the number one threat to their growth prospects (80% say they are somewhat or extremely concerned about this) and that the most important skills they list are the most difficult to find in the workforce. As AI advances, many low-value, repetitive tasks will be automated. Attributes like creativity, problem-solving and leadership become ever-more important and sought-after in the workforce while supplies of those abilities become scarcer. A potential shift towards nationalism may only exacerbate the challenge.
CEOs across the board—and technology CEOs in particular—agree that globalisation has enhanced the quality of life and enabled business growth in a variety of ways, from enabling universal connectivity, to creating a skilled and educated labour force. Having reaped the benefits of a worldwide customer base and a fluid, mobile and diverse talent pool, it’s no surprise that more than half of all CEOs (including technology) agree or strongly agree that the trend toward more closed national policies will negatively impact an open, global market.
The Chinese economy continues to undergo complex structural reforms to ensure balanced and steady development and growth. Business outlook for executives in China appears quite positive. To achieve this growth, numerous challenges combined with global economic uncertainty have to be overcome. Intense industry competition, the pace of technological development, changes in consumer spending and behaviour, difficulty with recruiting employees with advanced skills and lack of trust in business were cited as main threats to growth prospects.
Business leaders today have a great opportunity and responsibility to lead through the disruptions by demonstrating purpose and increasing trust. Find out more from our China report: Leading through disruption.