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92 percent of ASEAN CEOs see disruptive forces as an opportunity

Anuradha Shukla | June 16, 2017
Findings from KPMG’s survey also suggest that the key motivator for adopting cognitive technologies is to improve customer experience, not reduce operational costs.

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Most (92 percent) ASEAN CEOs see disruptive forces as an opportunity rather than a threat to their business, according to KPMG International's 2017 Global CEO Outlook.

Out of the 1,261 CEOs surveyed globally, 83 percent of the ASEAN CEOs also said their businesses are aiming to be a disruptor in their sector.

As such, ASEAN CEOs have a higher than global average intentions to invest in new technologies and use digital to connect to customers. The intention to invest in robotic processes over the next 3 years is about 45 percent higher than among CEOs outside the region.

"Disruption has become a fact of life for CEOs and their businesses as they respond to heightened uncertainty," said John Veihmeyer, global chairman of KPMG. "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. In the face of new challenges and uncertainties, CEOs are feeling urgency to 'disrupt and grow'."

Ong Pang Thye, managing partner, KPMG in Singapore, added: "Greater digital investments offer CEOs and their companies more opportunities to find competitive advantage in an increasingly uncertain global geopolitical environment. Comparing our results across ASEAN with the rest of the world, we see a greater confidence among ASEAN business leaders that should translate into an economically positive year for the region."

The survey also found that as businesses adopt cognitive technologies, 65 percent of ASEAN CEOs expect a slight or significant short-term headcount growth for 10 key roles. Since more specialist employees will be needed, it suggests that customer experience—not cost reduction—is the key driver for CEOs' move to adopt cognitive technologies, said KPMG.

"Speed to market and innovation are strategic priorities for companies growing in uncertain conditions. Both are the outcomes of a clearly-articulated digitalisation strategy whose benefits go beyond cost savings and greater efficiencies to supporting faster decision-making and strengthening customer relationships. These efforts can be transformational; helping organisations respond swiftly to market conditions and new opportunities," said Ong.

Cybersecurity, which was the top risk in 2016, has fallen to 9th position across ASEAN this year. Nearly half (46 percent) of the CEOs in the region said they feel adequately prepared for a cyber incident, which is an increase of 21 percent from 2016.

Commenting on this, Ong said: "The WannaCry ransomware incident occurred after this survey was completed. This suggests that companies must never become complacent about cyber security. While it may be impossible to fully prepare for unknown cyber threats, strengthening cyber security practices is a continuous and evolving journey in protecting their brand reputation."


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