Business survivors will manage change

    What will future enterprises look like? IBM says fortunes will flow to those who manage accelerated change.

    A recent study conducted by IBM of more than 1,000 private and public sector leaders worldwide reveals the enterprise of the future must manage a pace of change that has yet to be experienced by most companies. After reading the study, the single most important conduit to effectively managing this accelerated rate of change, I believe, will be companies’ ability to communicate through emerging channels.

    CEOs surveyed ranked people skills, market forces and technology as the three external forces with the greatest impact on their organizations. When coupled with the report’s "striking findings," which follow, a case can be made for ramping up internal and external communications that support global brand platforms and, simultaneously, brand adaptation to suit culturally diverse markets. 

    Organizations are bombarded by change, and many are struggling to keep up. Eight out of 10 CEOs see significant change ahead, and yet the gap between expected change and the ability to manage it has almost tripled since the last Global CEO Study in 2006.

    The study found 75 percent of companies characterize their approach to change as informal, ad hoc or improvised. I suspect this contributes to their inability to manage change.

    CEOs view more demanding customers not as a threat, but as an opportunity to differentiate. CEOs are spending more to attract and retain increasingly prosperous, informed and socially aware customers.

    According to the report, customers now have far more sources of information. Fifty-three percent of consumers surveyed said they used the Internet to compare product features and pricing. Twenty-five percent accessed information from a mobile device, and 10 percent sent text messages to friends and family to get input and share product information prior to purchasing.

    These percentages are certain to grow as mobile and social media channels become more mainstream. If there is any doubt as to the pending impact of mobile and social media communications among consumers, do a Google search on the latest version of Apple’s iPhone. Insiders expect a technological revolution on scale with the introduction of Microsoft Windows.

    Nearly all CEOs are adapting their business models – two-thirds are implementing extensive innovations. More than 40 percent are changing their enterprise models to be more collaborative.

    Woven throughout the study are words such as collaborative, change, culture, manage, informed, socially aware, and implementing extensive innovations. All of these words indicate a need for effective communication among internal and external stakeholders to facilitate sustainable change throughout the environment in which a company operates.

    "The more informed our customers are and the higher their expectation levels, the better we will be positioned to demonstrate our differentiation," one U.S. CEO said in the survey. Many CEOs consider the informed and collaborative customer a chance to justify premium positioning and price.

    To achieve this level of collaboration with customers, employees’ roles as brand ambassadors becomes all the more important to enterprise success. Company brands represent differentiation and differentiation allows companies to command higher margins. Internally, employees must receive consistent reinforcement of what a brand represents to become an effective ambassador. Then, and only then, can they live the brand in all their interactions. 

    Additional insights gained by reviewing the report are worth the effort. We all understand the old adage that indicates the only constant is change. But to manage that change, communication is critical. As you read through the report, determine how your business will handle the increased rapidity of change. 

    Karl Robe, APR, leads the public relations practice at Avicom Marketing Communications, which has offices in Waukesha and Milwaukee, Wis., and Montville, N.J. He can be reached at

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