Business Brains

CEOs: Social networks key to future business connections

CEOs: Social networks key to future business connections

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An IBM survey of 1,700 global business leaders suggests social software will be second only to face-to-face interaction as a means of forging relationships.

Most chief executives are quite anti-social, with just 16 percent directing teams to use social business software for forging customer connections, according to IBM's biennial survey of CEOs from around the world.

But there will be a dramatic turnaround in that attitude during the next three to five years.

By the end of that timeframe, close to 60 percent of the business leaders survey by IBM believe that social networks will be second only to face-to-face connections as a valuable means of forging customer relationships, the IBM 2012 Global CEO Study shows.

Ethics, strong business values and the ability of individuals to collaborate on behalf of their company's larger strategic agenda are mantras that these business leaders plan to embrace more closely as the rules for interacting with customers and business partners are rewritten, the IBM data shows. In the quest for market share, the individual's ability to act social in a corporate setting will be increasingly valuable.

The IBM study engaged the opinions of more than 1,700 chief executives representing 64 countries and 18 industries.

As you might expect out of a survey conducted by a technology company, the IBM study explores the role that CEOs expect technology to have on reshaping relationships.

For example, approximately 53 percent of the surveyed CEOs said technology will be central to changing how their company partners and collaborates with outside partners, while 52 percent are focused on promoting better internal collaboration.

Commenting on the survey findings, Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of IBM Global Business Services, said:

"Rather than repeating the familiar lament about de-personalizing human relationships, this view leans heavily in favor of deepening them and using dynamic social networks to harness collective intelligence to unlock new models of collaboration."

Among the interpersonal skills that CEOs said they would prize most in employees in the future :

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Flexibility

The data suggests that a rather dramatic overhaul of how companies handle sales, marketing and customer support between now and 2015 is in the offing. How quickly companies can put aside old notions of top-down control in favor of ideas that bubble up from within guided by a strong understanding of the corporate ethos will be crucial to managing that transformation.

(Image courtesy of IBM)

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure