As we move on from 2016, I’ve been reflecting on events from across the globe over the last 12 months that highlight dynamic societal discourses on topics ranging from economic policies to tax reform to immigration and national security. The words that spring to mind are unpredictability, change, upheaval and disruption. Anyone in the business of making predictions for 2017 may be looking at changing their career path!
We’re marking 20 years of PwC’s global CEO survey with the launch today of an interactive timeline looking back at the defining events and technology breakthroughs of the past two decades. Looking at the frequency and scale of tech developments (and this timeline shows just the tip of the iceberg), it’s no surprise to me that corporate leaders all over the world continue to tell us that they’re grappling with forces of disruption affecting all parts of their business.
I spend a lot of time talking with our clients about how megatrends like demographic and social change, shifts in global economic power, rapid urbanisation and – often, most acutely of all – technological breakthroughs are disrupting and changing the very rules of the industry they operate in. What’s increasingly becoming apparent is that industries aren’t just being disrupted, they’re being completely upended and reshaped at their very core. The walls between suppliers, producers and consumers and even between whole industries are moving, transforming and even, in some cases, coming right down. And technological change is driving the transformation of the business landscape.
In fact, four in five CEOs surveyed in our recent executive Pulse panel think the production technologies their companies use will change in the next five years – this rises to 90% of CEOs in Asia Pac companies. And three quarters cite investing in or acquiring new technologies as the most important strategy for managing disruptions faced.
In this year’s CEO survey (due for release in Davos on January 16) we asked CEOs to what extent technology has changed competition in their industry over the last 20 years and the last 5 years – and how they think it will change competition over the coming 5 years. Although the final results aren’t in yet, my guess is that CEOs will tell us that tech in the next 5 years and beyond will be even more disruptive to their industry than even in the last five. So it’s not only that the pace of change continues unabated, but that it may actually be accelerating.
Strategic planning has moved on from being an annual event to become an iterative dialogue across the C-Suite. CEOs must continuously look at how the forces of technological breakthroughs are affecting their sector, how far those forces will disrupt their industry in the next five to ten years, what the future might look like for their business, and most importantly, what they might need to transform today to continue to thrive tomorrow.
So, disruption continues to be a way of life. The future is unpredictable. But history shows us that the companies that can prepare themselves for more than one future have the best chance of navigating the uncertainties ahead.
Dana Mcilwain is the Chief Administrative Officer and Operations Leader for the PwC Network. Dana’s primary responsibility is to ensure the PwC Network is Fit for Growth by teaming to drive strategic planning and investments; strategic cost management; strategic combinations and integrations; and technology enablement. Read more.