Local CEOs Aim to Disrupt Amid Economic Uncertainty

South African CEOs aim to disrupt and grow their organisations amid economic uncertainty, with 88% spending much more time on scenario planning as a result of an uncertain geopolitical climate.

This is according to the KPMG South Africa 2017 CEO Outlook, which found local CEOs are still broadly confident about the prospects for the global economy, with 68% seeing disruptive forces as an opportunity, not a threat, for their business.

The majority of the CEOs said implementing disruptive tech is a top three strategic priority, yet they expect their level of investment in most emerging tech to decrease in the next three years.

The research is based on in-depth interviews with 50 CEOs of some of the country’s largest companies. It provides insights of South African CEOs’ expectations for business growth and their strategies to chart organisational success over the next three years.

“Nine in 10 (90%) CEOs said they are evolving their skills and personal qualities to better lead their business. An overwhelming 86% said their organisations are actively disrupting the sector in which they operate, through digital initiatives; however, most of them admit their organisation likely isn’t disrupting business models as much as it should,” reveals the report.

With emerging cognitive technology making its way into South African businesses, 80% of the CEOs said they are confident their company headcount would remain the same for the next three years. Integrating cognitive tech was second only to attracting new talent as the biggest tech-related challenge to their organisation, according to KPMG.

Makgotso Letsitsi, partner and executive director for KPMG SA, says CEOs understand that speed to market and innovation are strategic priorities for growth in uncertain political conditions.

“In the face of new challenges and uncertainties, CEOs are feeling the urgency to ‘disrupt and grow’. Disruption has become a fact of life for CEOs and their businesses as they respond to heightened uncertainty. But importantly, most see disruption as an opportunity to transform their business model, develop new products and services, and reshape their business so it is more successful than ever before. That’s why a whopping 88% are spending much more time on scenario planning as a result of an uncertain geopolitical climate,” notes Letsitsi.

Speaking of digital transformation, Simon Carpenter, chief technology advisor: SAP Africa, says the digital transformation journey takes businesses and IT leaders from complexity to simplicity, and ultimately, to innovation and digitisation.

“Locally, companies have been slower to champion digital transformation. A 2016 study by BMI-TechKnowledge found 53% of companies surveyed were investing in technology purely ‘to keep the lights on’, and not as part of some larger transformational process. This is exposing local companies to the risk of stagnation and decline, as more future-looking competitors claim invaluable competitive advantage by driving an innovation and transformation agenda,” explains Carpenter.