A growing number of midmarket CEOs worldwide see the creation of a more collaborative work environment with a higher level of openness and transparency as a top priority, according a study from IBM. The number almost doubled in comparison to IBMs last study, with 45 percent of CEOs recognizing the need for a more open business environment, with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others having a major impact on the way businesses connect with their customers.
In addition, the study suggested partnerships with other companies are increasingly important to midmarket businesses, with nearly 70 percent of midmarket CEOs planning on extensive partnerships, while 64 percent said they are focusing on the creation of a more collaborative environment to help increase employee productivity in the face of an ever-more competitive business landscape. Half of midmarket CEOs surveyed said they see partnering or collaborating as a way to stay on the path of innovation.
While the rise of social media applications can give midmarket businesses a competitive edge and help them gain important insights into their customers wants and needs, the report found just 15 percent of CEOs use social media platforms to connect to customers, although IBM noted that figure is expected to rise to 50 percent in three to five years. Overall, 71 percent of CEOs surveyed said they are focused on improving their understanding of individual customer needs.
This focus on collaborative environments is also changing the way businesses search for the right employees, with CEOs regarding the interpersonal skills of collaboration (72 percent), communication (68 percent), creativity (58 percent) and flexibility (66 percent) as key drivers of employee success. Employees who are able to reinvent themselves through collaboration will find themselves with an edge in a competitive hiring market, the report noted.
"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," Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBMs midmarket business division, said in prepared remarks. "Business leaders are embracing technology in completely new ways to spot oncoming threats, capture an immediate, unexpected business opportunity, and address business challenges with a clear focus on partnering with other organizations to seize these opportunities to drive growth and innovate."
Business mobility should be another key area of focus, the report concluded, as mobile commerce is expected to reach $31 billion by 2016. Personally tailored location-based services can be a big competitive boost to midmarket companies if they are integrated into their customer bases increasingly multichannel approach to acquiring goods and services. Under pressure to deliver to customers when and where they want goods and services, CEOs recognize this requires reaping more information about those customers: 65 percent of midmarket CEOs identify customer insights as the most critical investment area.