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Cognizant has introduced The Future-Ready Business Benchmark, research from Economist Impact, commissioned by Cognizant. This comprehensive survey of business leaders across eight industries and 10 countries is aimed at understanding the state of the modern business and how leaders are preparing for long-term success in a post-pandemic world. The research identifies three essential interrelated areas that leaders must prioritise to create a resilient, future-ready enterprise: 1) Realising full value from accelerated technology adoption, 2) overhauling workforce strategies, and 3) closing the gap on thought and action in the face of growing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) challenges.
“Resilience is the new must-have capability for every organisation that expects to thrive in this time of intensifying competition, ever-accelerating digital technology, and unpredictable global events,” said Euan Davis, Head of Cognizant Research. “To succeed as a modern business, leaders must be ready for anything, and prioritisation is key when everything seems equally critical. We’ve shown that savvy technology investment, attention on developing talent with new and expanded skillsets, and embedding and acting on an ESG agenda are core elements of focus on which leaders can build. The successful CxOs will build future-ready, resilient businesses by ensuring their organisations learn, adapt, and continually evolve.”
Economist Impact surveyed 2,000 senior executives in 10 countries across North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific to assess and compare their businesses across a range of metrics.
Survey highlights include these insights:
Strategic clarity is muddled. Over 90% of business leaders surveyed say it is a strategic priority to adopt a data-driven approach and create a digital-first business model, with 37% citing both imperatives, along with the need to align operations with these new modes of working, as “business critical.”
Technology investment is accelerating beyond what has become the standard shopping list of cloud, advanced analytics, IoT and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) even while respondents say they are not yet realising full value of existing investments. In addition to these foundational technologies, of which the vast majority of respondents, 80%, say they have adopted or plan to adopt, there is a growing appetite for an emerging set of technologies; over 60% of respondents say they plan to or are already adopting quantum computing, blockchain, and robotics.
Workforce and talent management strategies need a major overhaul to prepare workers for new ways of work. Nearly half of respondents, at 46%, recognise they lack the skilled talent necessary to make productive use of advanced technologies. When asked about the biggest hurdles to implementing new processes, products, services and technologies over the last 12 months, the two most significant challenges were workforce-related: a lack of knowledgeable staff and a chronic lack of focus on preparing workers for the new ways of work. For example, just one-third, or 33%, of respondents are using data to identify and understand training needs and cultivate talent.
Business resilience is at risk for companies that recognise ESG as a critical consideration but fail to take action to integrate ESG throughout the organisation. Nine in 10 decision-makers, or 90%, recognise attending to ESG issues is an important aspect of being a modern business. However, there is a massive disconnect between recognition and action, with only 31% having dedicated staff and resources devoted to ESG, and only 35% incorporating ESG into company strategy. A slight majority, 54%, report setting and taking action on specific environmental targets, while only 44% currently measure social impact.
“Many businesses today are struggling to prepare for next month, let alone years from now,” noted Vaibhav Sahgal, Principal at Economist Impact. “Firms genuinely embedding principles of future-readiness from our Future-Ready Business Benchmark into their operational realities will maintain and grow their competitive advantage. Our data validated the fact that it is particularly challenging to make progress on the matter when juggling a vast array of often competing priorities. Our guidance is to start where the gaps are most significant and dial up the focus on people; the benchmark offers tangible calls to action for businesses across countries and industries. A failure to embrace the volatility that is here to stay, and prioritise business plans and investments accordingly, puts your business at the risk of losing relevance.”