A global survey of 2,000 business leaders, sponsored by Cognizant Technology Solutions, shows key challenges including competing priorities, deriving value from technology investments, addressing a talent and skills gap, and sustaining action on environmental, social and governance (ESG).

The US-based IT company on Tuesday introduced ‘The Future-Ready Business Benchmark’ — a research from the Economist Impact on business leaders across eight industries and ten countries. It is aimed at understanding the state of modern business and how leaders are preparing for long-term success in a post-pandemic world.

The research identifies three essential interrelated areas that leaders must prioritise to create a resilient, future-ready enterprise, realising full value from accelerated technology adoption, overhauling workforce strategies, and closing the gap between thought and action in the face of growing ESG challenges.

‘Focus on resilience’

“Resilience is the new must-have capability for every organisation that expects to thrive in this time of intensifying competition, ever-accelerating digital technology, and unpredictable global events,” said Euan Davis, Head of Cognizant Research.

“To succeed as a modern business, leaders must be ready for anything, and prioritisation is key when everything seems equally critical. We’ve shown that savvy technology investment, attention to developing talent with new and expanded skillsets, and embedding and acting on an ESG agenda are core elements of focus on which leaders can build. The successful CXOs will build future-ready, resilient businesses by ensuring their organisations learn, adapt, and continually evolve,” Davis added.

The survey said that strategic clarity is muddled. Over 90 per cent of business leaders surveyed say it is a strategic priority to adopt a data-driven approach and create a digital-first business model, with 37 per cent citing both imperatives, along with the need to align operations with these new modes of working as “business critical”.

Hunger for emerging technologies

Technology investment is accelerating beyond what has become the standard shopping list of cloud, advanced analytics, IoT and artificial intelligence/machine learning even while respondents say they are not yet realising the full value of existing investments.

Furthermore, 80 per cent of respondents say they have adopted or plan to adopt these foundational technologies, but there is also a growing appetite for emerging technologies. Over 60 per cent of respondents say they plan to or are already adopting quantum computing, blockchain, and robotics.

Workforce and talent management strategies need a major overhaul to prepare workers for new ways of work. Nearly half of respondents (46 per cent) recognise they lack the skilled talent necessary to make productive use of advanced technologies.

When asked about the biggest hurdles to implementing new processes, products, services and technologies over the last 12 months, the two most significant challenges were workforce-related: a lack of knowledgeable staff and a chronic lack of focus on preparing workers for the new ways of work. For example, just one-third (33 per cent) of respondents are using data to identify and understand training needs and cultivate talent, the survey said.