The EMC survey shows how companies are adapting their businesses to changing customer demands (Photo:EMC)

MUNICH - Companies are introducing new digital technologies, mining more data and getting a better handle on changing customer demands, but their executives feel  progress is slower than required to meet changing market demands.

That's one of the conclusions from a new survey conducted on behalf of technology group EMC by The Institute for the Future, a forecaster of long-term trends, and technology market researchers Vanson Bourne. In late 2014, the two organizations polled 3,600 senior executives in 18 countries on how they felt their companies were dealing with technology challenges and opportunities.

There was little disagreement on the momentous nature of the changes in today's business environment, with 96 pc agreeing that technology has forever altered the rules of business. Moreover, 93 pc of the executives felt that technology has changed customer expectations.

The executives also had little trouble listing the key business priorities in the 21st century, with 60 pc saying that the identification of new business priorities is top of their digital agenda. A close second on the priority list was the need to demonstrate transparency and gain the trust of customers. And a third priority was the need to adopt more agile innovation procedures to speed up the development of new business offerings.

Trust, privacy and data protection concerns will grow in coming years, which will lead to more privacy-enhancing technologies being developed, said Sabine Bendiek, EMC managing director for Germany. "The feeling is that, in this new world, we need to be better at telling our customers that they can trust us," she said.

Faster access to services was seen by 55 pc of the executives as the top customer demand, followed by around-the-clock access to services, access on more platforms and a personalized experience.

Though company executives worldwide expressed awareness of the need to adopt new technologies and change their businesses, they were generally unsatisfied with the level of progress they were making. According to the survey only 9 to 14 pc said they considered their companies good at meeting new customer requirements. And only 23 pc of executives polled said their companies performed "extremely well" when addressing new opportunities.

Bendiek said one of the areas were progress was perceived as too slow was in the general approach to innovation, where especially non-US companies were seen falling short. "Speed in trying out new solutions is becoming ever more important," Bendiek said in a press briefing here. According to the poll, only 25 pc of companies were "innovating in an agile way," while 17 pc haven't even started yet. Only 22 pc of executives felt their companies were "extremely" good at executing in this area.

The survey found that the proliferation of mobile devices was, by far, the most important factor forcing technological change on businesses, followed by data analytics, cloud computing and social media. In China, in particular, mobile technology has had a huge impact, according to 82 pc of the executives interviewed. In Japan, however, only 38 pc said they felt this impact.

Questions about the data revolution unveiled that, across the board, businesses are only just beginning to capitalize on available data resources. Almost half of the executives - 49 pc - said they didn't know how to reap benefits from their data, while only 30 pc said they could act in real time. In addition, 50 pc said they are "experiencing data overload" and only 24 pc said they considered their companies "very good at turning data into useful information."

The Institute for the Future identified five shifts that will be key components of what it called a "data driven future by 2024;"

  • Privacy-enhancing technology
  • Networked ecosystems
  • Augmented decision making
  • Multi-sensory communication
  • Information economy
-By Arjen Bongard