PwC Survey of Communications CEOs finds Innovation, Collaboration and Speed Top of Mind

By Peter Bernstein February 07, 2014
 Released at the recently concluded Davos World Economic Forum, the 17th annual survey by PwC of 1300 Global CEOs is an interesting snapshot in time. Indeed, for those of us in the communications industry items on the minds of the CEOs of communications companies around the world are interesting in that the priorities are not necessarily the ones you might expect.   

As the headline highlights there is a common theme that tie the top priorities is speed. It applies to being fast to market (innovation), fast in the market (collaboration) and  dealing with the impacts the fast pace of technologic change are causing in the connected world as agility and the need to adapt are increasingly compressed.

PwC numbers tell an interesting story

As the survey details, “Communications industry CEOs are looking to product and service innovation to drive their companies forward. They’re somewhat or very concerned about their company’s ability to keep up with the speed of technological change. And they’re looking to strategic alliances or joint ventures to propel growth.

Innovate: The good news here especially for vendors is that recognition that standing still is not an option. Communications industry CEOs know they need to create a culture that fosters innovation.

  • 41 percent of respondents said product/service innovation the main opportunity to grow their business (as compared with 35 percent of respondents from the global sample).
  • 49 percent said developing an innovation ecosystem that supports growth is a priority over the next three years.

Restructuring activities: As I have pointed out in my own postings, industry restructuring is something CEOs are spending a lot of time on:

  • 62 percent of communications industry CEOs entered into a strategic alliance or joint venture in the past twelve months, compared with 34 percent from the global sample.
  •  54 percent say they plan to enter into a new strategic alliance or joint venture in the coming twelve months.

Time is of the essence: CEO realities are that they know they have to speed things up. When asked “what is your current planning time horizon?” 56 percent of communications industry CEOs answered “three years”. The industry is changing too quickly to predict what will happen in just five years.

The report is also instructive (see chart below) on putting some granularity on communications industry CEO concerns about what could impact their growth prospects. The challenges of prices for energy and raw resources are obvious concerns, but notice that speed and security (on several fronts)are huge. Also note that the shortage of skilled people is causing sleepless nights. 

It has been a contention of mine for over a year that while we do not live in a post Internet era, we certainly are living through what I call, “The Age of Acceleration”—where the only constants are change and the speed at which it is increasing. It is interesting that the CEOs of the communications industry, who are accustomed to looking at investments over a long-term, measured in decades when it comes to historic infrastructure investments, now understand that even a five year planning horizon may be too long.  How fast the message filters through the ranks of communications companies that change the corporate cultures to be more innovative and responsive is going to dictate winners and losers.  Here as well the time is short and getting shorter. 

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