In the latest Saudi Arabia CEO Outlook report by KPMG, the firm surveyed a range of top-level business leaders in the Kingdom and found that 68% of them believe it is ‘agile or out.’ Agility is widely seen as the new currency for business and most CEOs recognize the need for continuous innovation to build resilient organizations.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Fozan, Chairman of KPMG in Saudi Arabia, noted: “In this ever-evolving and volatile environment, it is imperative for CEOs to done many hats at a time, act with agility, and most importantly, stay relevant. CEOs in Saudi Arabia are actively leveraging digital technologies, transforming their leadership team, and embracing all areas of the organization despite a less favourable macro-economic environment, geopolitical tensions.
The survey also brought the rapidly evolving customer expectations to the CEOs and enquired about their strategies to respond. 54% of the respondents believe that they must improve their understanding of the customer.
“CEOs need to be aware of the integration of their front, middle and back offices. Leaders who understand their customer needs and deliver on them will build a competitive edge for their companies. In 2020 and beyond, the customer will drive the direction of the engagement, whether that is digital or otherwise,” commented Arvind Singhi, Head of Clients and Markets at KPMG in Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, while the level of cyber threats is increasing, CEOs in Saudi Arabia do feel better prepared than in the year before, and most of them view information security as a potential source of competitive advantage and critical to engender trust with key stakeholders.
64 percent of CEOs in the Kingdom, up from 38 percent in the year before, believe that protecting customer data is important to enable the organization to grow its customer base in the future. That said, 68 percent of CEOs feel their investments in improving customer experience has paid off as expected, up from 36 percent.
The report also surveyed the challenges on the labor market, and found that 46 percent of CEOs in Saudi Arabia, compared with 59 percent of the global CEOs believe that they face difficulties in finding the right talent. At the same time, two-thirds of the CEOs in the Kingdom are now more focused on embedding their hiring strategies into their growth targets and upskilling the existing workforce, rather than recruiting new staff.
When preparing workforce 4.0, 68 percent of the CEOs in Saudi Arabia are channeling most of their investments into new technologies, compared to 32 percent who believe it is more important to invest in developing their workforce with the right digital capabilities, although the two do not need to be mutually exclusive.
Overall, KPMG found CEOs to be confident about their companies’ growth prospects, despite macro-economic headwinds and a relatively lower confidence in the direction of the global economy.
The CEO Outlook is based on the input of 50 CEOs in Saudi Arabia, compared with KPMG’s annual global survey amongst 1300 of the world’s leading CEOs and assesses some of the important international trends impacting Saudi Arabia and how companies can chart new business strategies for success over the next three years.