Each year I’m looking for the Global CEO Survey with great interest. Specifically this year I’m interested to see how risk management is affected by the global economic challenges. Communications CEOs are more worried not only about the global economic outlook, but also about several related risks. As the report shows, 45% are extremely concerned about the risk of economic volatility (versus 32% of the total sample). Similarly, 40% are extremely concerned about the measures highly indebted governments are taking to cut their fiscal deficits (versus 27%). Conversely, they’re more relaxed about the prospect of inflation. Only 19% of communications CEOs are somewhat concerned on this score (versus 31%).
Disruptive change is a constant feature of the communications industry and the results from this year’s survey indicate that CEOs see little sign of the pace and scale of change diminishing in the future. The rapid emergence and adoption of new technologies, devices and channels —from smartphones to tablets and Twitter to Groupon – can create overnight stars and catch the unprepared off guard. So it’s hardly surprising that 36% of communications CEOs are planning to make fundamental strategic changes in the next 12 months, compared to 13% across the rest of the survey population.
So how do communications CEOs propose to deal with these challenges?
They’re planning various strategic changes covering a wide range of financial and organisational areas over the next 12 months. Capital investment decisions and capital structuring activities feature prominently in their plans, for example: 31% intend to make major alterations to the former and 29% to the latter (versus 19% and 14%, respectively, of the total sample). And 29% expect to make major alterations in the way they manage risk, whereas the overall average is just 17%.
As well as changing their approach to investment and risk, communications CEOs say they’re likely to continue cutting costs. A full 90% have already implemented cost-reduction initiatives in the past 12 months, which is significantly more than the 75% who’ve done so in our entire survey sample. And 48% expect to outsource a business process or function in the next 12 months (compared to the overall average of 33%). Of course, outsourcing may be motivated by the need to reduce costs, but it’s also a component of the major organisational changes that two-fifths of communications CEOs expect to make in 2012.
Not surprisingly, since new technologies play such a key role in the sector, many communications CEOs are reconsidering how best to manage innovation, too. Communications CEOs are repositioning their portfolios to focus on developing new products and services, and fine-tuning existing products and services. But 60% also intend to adopt new business models in response to a fast-changing environment.
Predictably, perhaps, many communications CEOs are pinning their hopes for future growth on the emerging markets rather than the developed markets—as, indeed, are their peers in other sectors. And while most CEOs with plans to expand abroad are focusing on China, communications CEOs prefer Brazil: 26% believe it will be a key growth market in the next 12 months (versus 15%).
The full report on Communications CEO survey is available here.