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New research reveals Australian CEOs top concerns

By Catherine Knowles
Mon 4 Apr 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Technology is a force to be reckoned with, causing significant disruption and opportunity for Australian CEOs in 2016. Now facing both industry and economic pressures, CEOs are expecting significant challenges this year, primarily adapting to change, managing staff and maintaining growth.

Pronto Software, in partnership with The CEO Institute, has released new research based on surveys of 175 CEOs in various industries across Australia.

Following comprehensive analysis of the survey, Pronto identified five top concerns for CEOs. They are as follows:

Hiring and retaining talented staff: Nearly 30% of CEOs highlighted staff management as an important challenge for the year ahead, including attracting, training and retaining staff. Additionally, keeping long-term existing staff energised and motivated was a cited area for focus. Interestingly, staffing attracted more feedback than any other issue, Pronto says.

Mastering disruptive technology: Just over one-quarter (26%) of survey respondents considered disruptions and opportunities caused by technology to be one of the most significant trends they will face in 2016. Those CEOs who see technology as an opportunity tend to focus on how it will allow them to make large-scale changes to their business processes, according to Pronto.

Business growth: In 2015, approximately one in five CEOs described growth as a key area of transformation and concern. One year later, that has grown to one in four (23% of respondents). A common theme in this year’s discussions of growth was the impact on businesses of the apparent slowing of the Australian economy, with respondents calling out the need to manage a sluggish market.

Economic uncertainty: One in six (16%) of CEOs cited economic uncertainty as a key concern for 2016, and this anxiety is resulting in reduced business budgets and apprehension towards business spending. In the research report, Pronto notes that CEOs are also setting more conservative targets for success.

Managing change and improving processes: Managing change was noted as a major challenge for 15% of respondents. Overall, the need for ‘change management’ was framed as a consequence of other trends, such as economic fluctuations, technological developments and international competition, particularly from Asia. Technology is also a key driver of the perceived need to manage change. However, CEOs were divided over the exact nature of the issue, with some seeing change as a necessity in the face of existing technologies, while others say harnessing innovation will drive real change.

In 2015 Pronto completed a similar survey and found Australian CEOs’ primary concerns revolved around the challenges of digital technology and maintaining growth. Based on the results of this year’s survey, Australian CEOs are facing a greater myriad of challenges than ever before.

Chad Gates, Pronto Software chief operating officer, says, “Last year the number one issue of 2015 was technology disruption, and then number two was managing and retaining staff. Further investigation showed these two concerns were very closely related, because they relate to generational change and the ability to attract talent.

“However, this year economic uncertainty has crept in and is now on the radar for many Australian CEOs. Amidst this, everyone’s looking at technology to leverage what they’ve got gain a competitive edge. CEOs are looking to make sure they’re meeting the right people and not missing any opportunities, are on the bleeding edge but not taking too many risks.”

According to Gates, while everybody is focusing on their core business, they’re also wanting to drive significant business value through innovation ideas and innovative technology. This is resulting in a shift towards cloud infrastructure and a heightened focus on decision making, and using systems and solutions to gain actionable business insights.

However, despite CEOs growing concerns, the research finds the prevailing mood among them is one of wary optimism. According to Pronto, CEOs spoke of “maintaining momentum” and “achieving growth” even in the face of various threats.

Gates says, “In my ongoing discussions with CEOs, technology is continually the trend that is perceived to be a threat, as well as a source of great opportunity. I urge business leaders to look at technology as the support required to help overcome these challenges identified by the research.

“By embracing a strong technological solution that’s flexible, CEOs and their teams can gain clarity regarding how their business is performing, transform underused data into actionable insights, and empower their teams to make better decisions. Technology can truly empower leaders, helping them navigate the company towards ongoing success.”

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