Collaboration and Transparency Key to Providing the Edge Midmarket CEOs Need to Drive Innovation, According to IBM Study

Engaging with the Consumer as an Individual cited as Top Priority
PR Newswire

ARMONK, N.Y., June 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A new IBM (NYSE: 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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Organizations 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.

To effectively engage individual consumers and clients, organizations must weave together insights about the whole person from a variety of sources. They will need stronger analytics capabilities to uncover patterns and to act on insights. Two such examples are as follows:

Bristol Water and Desert Mountain Reduce Water Footprint with Big Data
Bristol Water plc
provides water supply and related services in the United Kingdom. It serves approximately 1.1 million people and businesses in an area of 2,400 square kilometers centered on Bristol.

According to Bristol Water's CEO Luis Garcia, the last two years have been the driest in the past 160 years, with rainfall exceptionally low and reservoir levels dropping much earlier than usual. With a fixed water supply and increasing population, water consumption needs are only growing. Concerns are increasing over water availability, water quality and overall water management complexity. As a result, Bristol Water is engaging individual customers to use water wisely over the summer and support them by providing water saving devices to help them to use less water.

In addition, Desert Mountain, a Scottsdale, Arizona, golf and residential community consisting of 4,500 residents and six golf courses, is the largest user of reclaimed water (26 million gallons) in metro Phoenix-Scottsdale. Working with IBM and Business Partner UgMO, Desert Mountain had adopted a new collaborative approach to gather a variety of complex data (from weather variables such as temperature, humidity and evaporation, to most recent watering) generated from wireless sensors to pinpoint exactly how much water the course needs and monitor water usage in real time so that corrective action can be taken immediately. This innovative way to measure how much water and energy are consumed helps Desert Mountain make better decisions in their usage.

Now the irrigation manager can use real time data to control irrigation systems, monitor water supplies and allocate water with unprecedented speed and efficiency by 50 percent. Instead of looking at five different views, the manager is only looking at one - freeing up his time for other duties.

Mobility: A Change Agent
Finally, mobility is also elevating customer expectations and creating new challenges for CEOs. Midmarket clients have a tremendous opportunity to create value out of immediacy to be ready with relevant services and information in the context of the moment. As mobile commerce is expected to reach $31 billion by 2016, companies will need to take advantage of location based services and new forms of commerce in which mobile is integrated into a consumer's multichannel experiences, tailored to the individual, to stay competitive.

"Midmarket CEOs are establishing more open and collaborative cultures - in which employees not only connect more with each other and the outside world to innovate, but to reinvent themselves. Learning from each other, they stay ahead of the skills curve and open to change," said Andy Monshaw, General Manager of IBM Midmarket Business. "Business leaders are embracing technology in completely new ways to spot oncoming threats, capture an immediate, unexpected business opportunity, address business challenges with a clear focus on partnering with other organizations to seize these opportunities to drive growth and innovate."

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Lizette Kodama
IBM Media Relations