by Diann Daniel

What Keeps Your CEO Up at Night: Worries About Change and Corporate Social Responsibility

May 08, 20082 mins
InternetIT Leadership

Market factors, people skills, and technological factors top the list of external forces with the most impact on organizations; green issues wielding more clout.n

CEOs face major organizational changes and feel their companies are responding less well to those challenges, including new ways to take advantage of technology, according to an IBM survey.

The 2008 survey of more than 1,000 global CEOs found that companies’ top leaders ranked change as top business issue. The number of CEOs who say their company is facing substantial change in the next three years checks in at 80 percent. That’s up from 65 percent in 2006.

While the number of CEOs who say that they face substantial change has risen, their ability to manage that change, according to survey respondents, has decreased. In 2006, 57 percent of CEOs said they had changed successfully in the past. In the most recent survey, 61 percent said they had done so.

The top three change drivers, according to the report, are market factors (identified by 48 percent of respondents), people skills (48 percent), and technological factors (35 percent). People skills have continued to grow in importance since 2004 when they weighed in at 42 percent; such importance is largely due to a growing lack of tech and management talent created by Baby Boomers exiting the workforce, the report says.

To meet those challenges, many CEOs are adapting their business models. Fully 69 percent say they are making extensive changes to their company’s business models. The study suggests many of these changes will capitalize on virtual technologies and real-time feedback.

Green issues are also becoming more pressing, the study suggests. Customers’ expectations around corporate social responsibility are rising, and CEOs are struggling to meet those expectations. CEOs’ concern about the environment, in particular, has risen over the last four years, but it is still a big minority around the world. CEOs in the Americas who say environmental factors are a top business driver checks in at 12 percent, whereas 21 percent of European and Asia Pacific CEOs prioritize green issues.