CEOs are responsible for directing high-level strategy and ensuring growth and long-term viability. For those who run publicly traded companies, exceeding shareholder and market expectations is always top of mind. That is why sustainability -- the capacity to ensure business success in the present while preserving the ability to do the same in the future -- will be a primary focus for CEOs in 2013.
In the business context, sustainability is about taking a holistic approach to the long-term viability of an enterprise in the midst of social, environmental and economic forces. At a practical level, it involves the ability to increase revenue, improve profit margins and protect the business' future competitive advantage.
Technology will play a vital role in helping companies achieve this goal -- thanks in part to the evolving role of the IT organization, which has shifted dramatically in recent years. Where IT once focused solely on technology and "the business" focused on profitability, today business and IT functions have converged. In a sense, IT has "become the business" since virtually all business processes reside there now. And while CEOs are not concerned with the bits and bytes of technology (nor should they be), they are better informed about technology than ever before and have high expectations for how it can help improve the bottom line in 2013.
Traditionally, a company's options for increasing revenue have been obvious: Sell more products, raise prices, or grow the existing customer base. To achieve long-term revenue growth, however, enterprises must develop new products and services that enable them to extend their reach into adjacent and emerging markets. The mobile market is one such example, where growth is relentless and tremendous untapped potential still exists for businesses of all kinds.
For enterprises to capitalize on these types of opportunities -- and achieve that sustainability they're aiming for -- they must be able to deliver true business value through two important avenues: innovation and time to market.
Technically speaking, innovation is the introduction of something new. Nearly every company claims to be innovative, but what does that really mean? Innovation isn't just about delivering a new product or service to the marketplace; it's about that product or service making a significant bottom-line impact on the business. If a company introduces a new widget that no one wants or buys, what good is it? Innovation without business or social impact is not really innovation at all.
As it turns out, innovation and time to market go hand in hand. Companies that are the first to deliver a unique product or service are more likely to be seen as innovative market leaders. Conversely, companies that take a long time to develop products are seen as followers -- or are not seen at all. In a highly competitive business climate, time to market is a crucial differentiator that can give one company a dramatic advantage over its competitors. And, of course, enterprises that successfully improve time to market enable their clients, in turn, to achieve more success with their own customers. This ultimately helps companies expand their customer base and garner customer loyalty.
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