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RBS Fiasco – A Harbinger of Things to Come?

Jul 14, 2012   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Lead Analyst: Cal Braunstein

 

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) group, which includes NatWest and Ulster Bank, recently experienced a massive week-long outage caused by an IT failure. Retail customers were unable to receive or make payments, thereby greatly impacting people's ability to process wages, mortgages, and other transactions; thereby damaging the bank's and people's reputations. The bank's retail customer account system utilizes CA Inc.'s CA-7 batch scheduling software. What should have been a routine procedure and straightforward upgrade fix by operations staff was unintentionally converted into a major catastrophe.

The story is that an operator running the end-of-day overnight batch cycle accidentally erased the entire scheduling queue. This error required the re-entry of the entire queue – a complex process requiring an in-depth understanding of the core system's processes and detailed knowledge of legacy software. All this had to be completed within the overnight batch processing window, which for most firms is tight and leaves little room for error correction and reruns. This proved to be impossible, especially as pent-up demand and payment instructions built up over time in the queue, causing other RBS systems, such as access to its online banking, to be out of service. Eventually RBS had to rerun the previous day's transactions before new ones could be inputted into the system. The delays and backlog of up to 100 million transactions fed upon themselves extending the outage over multiple days.

RFG notes that many observers pointed the finger at the bank's legacy mainframe systems – both the hardware and software. However, RFG believes this is not the real story. The vast majority of banks run their retail customer account systems using mainframes and legacy software every day and this is a rare event. RBS runs on System z servers, so one cannot claim it is using ancient iron that is outdated.

The real culprits are the bank's processes and personnel management. The multi-year banking crisis that RBS (and others) went through caused the firm to undertake cost cutting measures over the past few years. IT organizations were not exempt from the staffing actions and many of the IT jobs were outsourced to a team in India. Reports state that the person responsible for the error was part of this team but an RBS executive claims otherwise. Outsourced or not, two things are evident: the staff was inexperienced and not adequately trained for the task, and processes and procedures did not exist to quickly identify the problems and correct them rapidly. The issues here are not technology but people and process.

RFG POV: The RBS business environment is not unique. Because of the financial meltdown that began in 2008, banks, other financial institutions, and enterprises of all types have been forced to slice budgets across multiple years and IT budgets are no exception. For many companies this cost cutting continues. However, it does not mean that IT is no longer accountable and responsible for its actions – it has a fiduciary responsibility to keep the business running regardless of the disaster. RBS did not properly staff and/or train its operations crews and did not have appropriate procedures in place to prevent such a failure. In many organizations the procedures are not well documented and smooth operations are dependent upon the institutional knowledge and skills of senior staff and frequently when there are cuts, these high priced administrators/operators are the first to go. IT executives should proceed cautiously when "rightsizing" staff and ensure that key skills and/or institutional knowledge are not being lost in the process. Documentation tends to be an IT Achilles heel. IT executives need to ensure all procedures are well documented, tested, and staff is fully trained on them. As the proverb goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

Big Buys Shifting Markets

Jul 14, 2012   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Lead Analyst: Cal Braunstein

 

Microsoft Corp. announced two acquisitions – for $1.2 billion it bought the enterprise social networking vendor Yammer Inc. and Perceptive Pixel Inc. (PPI), a giant touchscreen maker, for an undisclosed sum. Elsewhere, Dell Inc. said it intends to acquire Quest Software Inc. for $2.4 billion while Ingram Micro Inc. is purchasing BrightPoint Inc. and Micron Technology Inc. is buying Elpida Memory Inc.

Focal Points:

  • Microsoft pushed further into the enterprise arena by announcing its intent to purchase Yammer, a cloud services company that provides enterprise social networking, for $1.2 billion. Yammer is a San Francisco-based company with more than five million registered corporate users. Microsoft intends to fold Yammer into its Office Division but the unit will continue to report to the current CEO David Sacks. CEOs Ballmer and Sacks acknowledged Microsoft plans on integrating Yammer's technology with Office, Office 365, Dynamics (CRM) and Skype. Nonetheless, Microsoft will continue to offer Yammer as a standalone cloud service, too. Additionally, Microsoft has acquired Perceptive Pixel, a provider of large multi-touch displays for an undisclosed sum. The company sells 27-, 55-, and 82-inch LCDs and recently announced the first-ever simultaneous pen and touch technology for its devices. Microsoft has not made any statements about its plans for the unit. The New York-based company was founded in 2006 by Jeff Han, a renowned pioneer in multi-touch technology.
  • Dell won the bidding war for Quest Software, a provider of access management, data archiving, database, performance and systems tools, with its bid of $2.4 billion. The purchase price was a 44 percent premium to its March 8th closing price – the date when the acquisition talks first began with Insight Venture Partners. Quest is based in Aliso Viejo, CA and, according to Dell, has 3,850 employees of which 1,279 are software engineers in its R&D organization and 1,440 are direct sales representatives. The company also brings along 4,000 channel partners, which were responsible for 40 to 45 percent of sales. Quest had revenues of $858.2 million in 2011, a year-over-year growth rate of 11.9 per cent but net income fell in half to $43.9 million. Gross margins are at 86 percent and the company has more than 100,000 customers worldwide. Once the deal closes, the Quest software should compose approximately 72 percent of Dell's software revenues.
  • Ingram Micro spent $840 million for specialist wireless device and services distribution company, BrightPoint. Founded in 1989, BrightPoint had fiscal year 2011 sales of $5.2 billion, up 44 percent year-over-year. The distributor employs 4,000 people in facilities across 24 countries and claims to have 25,000 B2B customers worldwide. Company executives stated the acquisition enabled the firm to achieve its objective of expanding into the mobility market. Meanwhile, Micron acquired the bankrupt and debt-ridden Japanese DRAM manufacturer Elpida for approximately $2.5 billion. The acquisition doubles Micron's DRAM market share to 24 percent, second only to Samsung Group. With this purchase the DRAM supplier market is now limited to three main providers: SK Hynix Inc., Micron, and Samsung.

 

 

 

 

RFG POV: With Skype and Yammer Microsoft now has some heavyweight brand names in the cloud computing space that it can potentially leverage. These cloud services should help the company sell its other cloud services as well as its other unified communications offerings. However, Yammer will not be part of the upcoming Office 2013 release. When it gets folded into the Office roadmap has yet to be determined. The PPI deal appears to be designed to be incorporated into the Surface tablet product set. What makes this most intriguing is that Microsoft is building its own hardware products and may be planning to become totally vertically integrated. This shift may not sit well with the company's long-time business partners, thereby further narrowing the set of vendors that will offer Windows 8 smartphones and tablets. Microsoft is changing its business model and striking out into uncharted horizons, without ensuring it has its back protected by its channel partners. IT executives need to pay attention to the shifts in the business model and pricing arising from the new strategy so that the enterprise is not caught of guard when contract negotiation time arrives. Dell now has a $1 billion software business that it can add to its hardware products and services offerings. The Quest Software tools mesh well with the Dell brand in that they are good price performers and they are complementary to the other Dell software offerings. IT executives can now expect Dell to claim to be a full-service provider and sell bundled offerings wherever it can. In that software margins tend to be large, Dell can maintain its least-cost image through nicely bundled packages while applying pressure to the software margins of its competitors. IT executives should take advantage of Dell's move into the enterprise software management space. Consolidation continues apace in the channel and supplier markets as well, with the Ingram Micro and Micron purchases. This may be good news for the vendors but it may slow the drop in DRAM prices and may actually allow Ingram Micro to increase their prices through cross- and up-selling and bundling the services. With the base storage technologies of hard drives and DRAM memory consolidating into sets of three providers, the previous glut and drought cycles may be coming to an end and price cutting may become less dramatic. If this occurs, IT executives will end up spending more on storage than previously projected, which could strain budgets. 

Trends: HPC, Programming, and Security

Jul 11, 2012   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Lead Analyst: Cal Braunstein

 

IBM Corp. regained the top supercomputer ranking with the installation of its "Sequoia" BlueGene/Q beast at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). According to job listing trends per Indeed.com, PHP and Python adoption is exploding. A recent Symantec Corp. study finds the expanded use of online file sharing is increasing the security risk exposures to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Focal Points:

  • IBM took back the top slot in the supercomputer rankings with the LLNL Sequoia installation, which delivered 16.32 petaflops of sustained performance running across the 1.57 million PowerPC cores inside the box during a Linpack benchmark run. Sequoia has a peak theoretical performance of 20.1 petaflops. To deliver the 16.32 petaflops IBM claims it only consumes 7.89 megawatts. The IBM supercomputer shifted the K massively parallel Sparc64-VIIIfx machine built by Fujitsu Group for the Japanese government down to number two. The Fujitsu Sparc machine had a sustained Linpack performance of 10.5 petaflops against a peak of 11.3 petaflops but it consumed 12.7 megawatts. Sequoia is 2.5 times as energy efficient as the Sparc K. IBM now has five of the top 10 high performance computing (HPC) engines. 372 of the processors, or 74.4 per cent of those on the list, are based on Intel Corp. Xeon or Itanium processors, down slightly from the 384 HPC machines on the November list. The latest Top 500 list has 58 Power-based processors, up from 49 six months ago. There are also 63 clusters based on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s (AMD's) Opteron processors, unchanged from last year.
  • According to Indeed.com companies are embracing the Web to reach customers and employees and are therefore turning to the programming languages and technology stacks made popular by companies such as Facebook Inc. and Google Inc.   Current programming languages such as C++, Java, and .NET will still be the primary languages for enterprise applications but the scripting languages will dominate the Internet. The below chart produced by Indeed.com shows the variances in job growth rates. Aside from the Internet movement another key reason for the adoption of PHP and Python is the movement to open source. Python appears to be a run-away winner because of its design elegance and framework simplicity. The next most used languages are Java and then .NET.

  

  • Symantec released the findings of its 2011 SMB File Sharing Survey of more than 1,325 SMB organizations this week. The survey results found SMB employees are increasingly adopting unmanaged, personal-use online file sharing solutions without permission from IT. These behaviors are making organizations vulnerable to potential data losses and security threats. A Symantec executive observed that a staggering 71 percent of small businesses that suffer from a cyber attack never recover. 74 percent of respondents who adopted online file sharing did so to improve their productivity. Respondents also cited risk concerns included sharing confidential information using unapproved solutions (44 percent), malware (44 percent), loss of confidential or proprietary information (43 percent), breach of confidential information (41 percent), embarrassment or damage to brand/reputation (37 percent), and violating regulatory rules (34 percent). However, only half of the respondents stated they would go to IT for help with sharing large files while only one-third expressed interest in utilizing an already existing IT solution. 14 percent now report the average shared file size is greater than 1 GB. Additionally, more and more people are remote. The survey found that about 37 percent of SMB organizations will have employees working remotely, up from 32 percent today.

 

RFG POV: IBM views the HPC market as only one component of the technical computing markets that it is aggressively pursuing. It has almost half of the HPC market but is in second or third place in the other sectors. With Power Systems once again proving their value at the high end, IBM will seek to differentiate itself with both Power and Intel systems in the other markets where Dell Inc. and Hewlett Packard Co. (HP) are the top competitors. Since IT executives can expect IBM and others to market and sell their solutions to end users directly as well as to IT, IT executives should be communicating with peers as to why IT should be involved in the decision-making process. The shift to PHP and Python will continue to gain steam as companies find these solutions are economical and easier to develop and maintain. This may cause religious wars in some organizations. IT executives need to keep staff focused on the business value of solutions and not on protecting legacy domains and skills. While the Symantec study only looked at the SMB organizations, there is also significant unauthorized use of file sharing amongst large enterprises as well. This is not just an IT issue…it is a corporate policy and governance issue and should be address from both angles. IT executives need to take a leadership role in driving awareness of the problem, gaining buy-in from other executives, providing internal solutions, and communicating the challenge and solutions to employees.  

On the Mobile Platform Horizon

Jul 11, 2012   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Microsoft Corp. announced it will brand its own Windows 8 tablet designed to compete with Apple Inc.'s iPad while also offering PC-like flexibly and connectivity. Elsewhere, Apple's new MacBook Pro sheds weight and gains a high-resolution display. Lastly, Research in Motion, Ltd. and Nokia Corp. have their businesses unravel a bit while they try desperately to reinvent themselves.

Focal Points:

  • In an announcement that came as a surprise to most observers this week, Microsoft showcased its new Surface tablet design in hardware that will be Microsoft branded. Not to be confused with a tabletop touchscreen design of the same name from the company a few years back, the tablet-sized Surface comes in two flavors running different versions of Windows 8. The mainstream Surface runs Windows 8 RT and is powered by ARM-based processors from Nvidia Corp. while the higher-end version will run Windows 8 Pro and uses Intel Corp. Ivy Bridge processors. Both devices will feature 10.6 inch screens, have built-in kickstands, magnetized screen covers that double as keyboards with a touchpad, and USB ports for connecting to peripherals.  The Surface running Windows 8 RT will come in 32 GB and 64 GB storage variants, has dimensions similar to Apple's iPad at 9.3 millimeters thick, weigh 1.5 pounds, and is priced to compete with similar tablets. The Windows 8 Pro version will weigh more and be priced higher than the Windows 8 RT offering and will offer 64 GB and 128 GB storage sizes. Though a firm launch date was not announced, availability for the ARM-based Surface should coincide with the Windows 8 launch in October and the Pro version should begin within a few months thereafter.
  • Apple updated its MacBook Pro notebook this week by showcasing a slimline 0.71-inch aluminum unibody design more similar to the MacBook Air than the model it replaces. The MacBook Pro's "showstopper" is the inclusion of a 15.4-inch "retina" high resolution display similar in clarity to those on Apple's latest iPad and iPhone models. Apple has decided to drop its 17-inch display MacBook Pro and is expected to introduce a 13-inch variant with the retina display late this year. Being in the top position in the MacBook line, new models will feature quad-core Intel i7 Ivy Bridge processors, battery life lasting up to a claimed 7.5 hours, memory  configurations between 8 GB and 16 GB, solid state disk (SSD) storage in three flavors ranging from 256 GB to 768 GB.  As with most Apple hardware designs, the notebooks are not designed to be user-upgradable and require specialized tools to service or upgrade the battery, RAM, and SSD. Pricing starts at $2,199 for the model with a 2.3 gigahertz (GHz) processor, 8 GB RAM, and 256 GB of flash storage.
  • Both RIM and Nokia suffered votes of "no confidence" this week as the companies struggle to survive in evolving smartphone and tablet markets. A Toronto-based equipment supplier for RIM announced that it is discontinuing manufacturing services for BlackBerry devices over the next three to six months and will take a $1 billion charge due to unsold equipment. The smartphone company's response was somewhat evasive as it noted making "changes to our supply chain as part of wider efforts to improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness." As RIM continues to prepare for the launch of forthcoming BlackBerry 10-based devices slated for release in October, the company said it will shed around 2,000 jobs – 11 percent of its workforce – to save $1 billion by its 2013 fiscal year. Similarly, Nokia detailed a series of sweeping changes that included shedding 10,000 jobs, reducing research and development efforts, and replacing some senior executives. Moody's Investors Service, Inc. slashed Nokia's credit rating to "junk" after the announcement.

 

RFG POV: Microsoft's new Surface tablet is a Hail Mary to bolster support for the company's Windows 8 platform across smartphone, tablet, and PC screens. As Windows 8 offers the same Metro UI  interface and compatibility for UI designed apps across platforms, the company hopes that the flagship Surface offering will get users and enterprises excited enough to begin adoption en masse. Surface itself is compelling in both Windows 8 RT and Pro variants; however, it is the Pro version with its notebook-replacement capabilities that are the most compelling for enterprise users. Though Microsoft's hardware history is littered with failures including the Kin smartphone and Zune music player, the Surface's design is a compelling one particularly with the inclusion of full-fledged Office apps. The company is way behind competitors Apple and Google, Inc. in developing its app ecosystem and will need to invest heavily in developer subsidies to ensure the mobile devices are a hit. IT executives can hedge their bets by sticking to a pilot of the Pro version only as it supports all mobile and desktop applications and should limit usage of the RT version until use cases prove themselves. Apple's new MacBook Pro is a genuine thing of beauty with its slim all-aluminum casing, large retina display, and extremely portable 4.5 pound weight. The company's push forward with design has removed several desirable features including an on-board optical drive, Ethernet adapter, and Firewire port. Those corporations supporting "bring your own device" (BYOD) philosophies will no doubt see new MacBook Pros in the enterprise, but mainstream enterprises will wish to avoid the notebooks for all but a small percentage of staff. While it is attractive and functional, IT executives will find that enterprise Mac acquisition costs are double those of Windows-based products and that support is more costly and complex given the closed design. Lastly, the continued challenges facing RIM and Nokia are likely just at the precipice of what it holds for the firms. Both lost their thought leadership position years ago, and while BlackBerry still retains a small league of supporters in security-minded firms, Nokia's loyalty is all but gone. Supplier and cash challenges will plague both companies for the foreseeable future and both have their pinned their hopes on glorious rebirths coinciding with the launch of new operating system platforms in the fall. IT executives should recognize that these Phoenixes are highly unlikely to rise from the ashes and while product support and valuable assets including patents and networking technologies may live on, both companies have expiration dates.

RIM Slides, HP Offers DC Architecture, Security Breaches

Jun 15, 2012   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Lead Analyst: Adam Braunstein

In the latest round of disappointing news from smartphone vendor Research in Motion, Ltd. , the company declared that it will miss quarterly projections and has solicited the advice of two banks to help it evaluate future revenue options. To improve the energy efficiency of data center operations, Hewlett-Packard, Co.'s new Net-Zero Energy Data Center architecture works to marry renewable energy supply with IT workloads. Lastly, several security breaches leaked passwords onto the Web.

Focal Points:

  • Things continue to decline for troubled smartphone vendor RIM as the company announced that it will miss previous estimates for its March-June quarter and that it has hired two banking firms to help it evaluate future opportunities. The company further declared that it intends to institute "significant" staff reductions this year as it aims to shave $1 billion out of its operating costs. Sales of BlackBerries in the U.S. have fallen more than 60 percent since 2009 while its stock has plummeted 93 percent since its high in 2008; reaching its lowest level since 2003. Hoping for a marked turnaround after the release of the highly-revised BlackBerry 10 later this year, new CEO Thorsten Heins has previously declared that the company will abandon the consumer market to focus on enterprise sales. The company now claims 78 million subscribers worldwide and accounts for approximately 6.5 percent of the global smartphone market. RIM's secure, managed network and robust patent portfolio could be worth north of $8 billion. Elsewhere, RIM also announced that it is discontinuing production of the 16 GB PlayBook tablet and will concentrate production on the larger 32 GB and 64 GB models.
  • HP Labs has unveiled a new data center architecture, called the HP Net-Zero Energy Data Center, designed to cut total power usage by 30 percent and dependence on grid power by more than 80 percent. The model centers around a management architecture that marries IT workload planning and energy and cooling resources using four core HP modules. A prediction module forecasts costs and availability, a planning module balances workload with processing requirements, and an execution module allows for real-time management. Lastly, a verification and reporting module helps ensure gaps are closed between predictions and real-world behaviors. The paradigm calls for matching energy supply with energy usage required by the IT workload to maximize the usage of available energy. Non-essential, batch workloads that do not require immediate processing would be scheduled during daylight hours when power from solar arrays is most plentiful, for example.
  • Several high-profile breaches were reported this week including one where 6.5 million LinkedIn passwords were leaked on the Internet. While it is unclear when the hack took place, a hacker possibly based out of Russia posted the hashed passwords sans usernames to a Russian forum over three days in the last week. One leading security firm surmises that about 60 percent of the SHA-1 passwords have already been cracked. LinkedIn has said that it is contacting users whose accounts have been compromised and instructing them as to how to reset their passwords. In an unrelated attack, dating site eHarmony has also admitted that an unknown quantity of member passwords has been stolen. Presidential nominee Mitt Romney had one of his personal e-mail accounts compromised this week by an anonymous prowler who was able to execute a password reset by correctly guessing the answers to password reset security questions. This follows the method employed to obtain access to one of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's personal accounts nearly four years ago.

 

RFG POV: RIM's prospects are getting grimmer for its future as an independent entity. The company is having issues selling its already-manufactured, old-style BlackBerry devices and is facing another write-down as it tries to unload them at severely discounted prices. While Heins is at least outwardly intent on restoring RIM to its former glory and keeping its independence, the market has moved so far beyond the BlackBerry and its closed-network paradigm. The company's two large assets consist of its patent stockpile and its secure, proprietary network; the sale or rental of either of which would potentially afford the company the cash to remain independent but would not further its position as a hardware vendor. Similarly, BlackBerry 10 is not enough of a game changer to win back converts or invite new users into the fold; thus, it will need to turn to adopting a licensing or sale of key assets. IT executives requiring the highest-levels of security should continue to use BlackBerry solutions for mobile users but should have exit strategies at the ready as changes are likely afoot. HP continues to cement its role as a leading provider of environmentally cost-effective solutions for new data center architectures and much can be learned from their latest architectural design. The demand for new computing, storage, and cooling resources along with the increasing rate of technology change are forcing enterprises globally to address operational resource constraints and cost concerns in new and innovative ways. The solutions chosen for new and upgraded data centers should incorporate the best practices demonstrated by leading technology firms that integrate concepts such as free cooling, renewable power, and resource optimization into their designs. IT executives building new data centers are advised to invest in technologies that meld energy savings, modularity, and rapid hardware refresh capabilities to maximize investments and enable needed IT agility. The latest set of password leaks demonstrates how no entity is immune from attack and that prestigious targets are among the most desirable. The attack vector used to expose hashed passwords for LinkedIn is not known as yet; however, the use of SHA-1 is somewhat disconcerting though expected. Despite SHA-1 hashes having known weaknesses that were identified more than a half-decade ago, it remains the most widely used of the hash functions. SHA-2 hashes have not yet been compromised and a new SHA-3 hashing schema will be selected later this year. IT executives should have guidelines requiring the replacement of compromised technologies within timelines appropriate to the perceived exposure, and where they cannot be replaced rapidly, additional layers of physical, technology, and verification security should be enacted. 

CEO Surveys

Jun 15, 2012   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Lead Analyst: Cal Braunstein

IBM Corp. and PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC released results from their global CEO surveys. For the first time the IBM study identified technology as the most important external force impacting the business. Both studies recognized the need to employ finer customer segmentation and use IT to change business processes to take advantage of new opportunities.

Focal Points:

  • IBM released results of its fifth biennial CEO survey, in which the company interviewed more than 1700 CEOs with more than six years tenure in 64 countries. One of the top findings was that technology is now driving more organizational change than any other force, including the economy. In this regard, outperformers embrace openness, excel in executing tough changes, differentiate themselves through better data access and insights which are put into action, and are more likely to partner for innovation and driving revenues from new sources. The top three sources of sustained economic value come from human capital, customer relationships and products/services innovation. Internal and external collaboration are being used as tools for creating organizational change. The second finding was that CEOs create more economic value by engaging customers as individuals. These companies are investing in getting customers to share their insights into what they value individually, and when and how they want to interact. Then they develop and execute plans to interact using social media as well as traditional face-to-face engagements. Outperformers in this category strongly differentiate themselves through better data access, insight, and translation into actions. While big data is playing a role in this dimensional change, other factors are the old fashioned way of listening and capturing what employees see and hear, and then being where the customer expects the company to be.
  • The third major CEO survey finding was that CEOs create more economic value by pursuing more disruptive innovation with partners and collaborating to drive new revenue sources. In some cases they create new industries while in others they merely move into new industries. Two of the keys to more effectively meeting the partnership challenge are making the partnerships personal and breaking the traditional collaboration boundaries. In effect, these companies are themselves becoming disruptors. While CEOs have shifted to address the transformational needs of the organization, CFOs are still concerned with controlling cost and improving efficiency. In a separate IBM retail study, IBM found most customers were willing to share information if they perceived there was a benefit to doing so. The greatest areas of reluctance for data sharing were in the categories of financial and medical data.
  • The PwC study of more than 160 CEOs in the U.S. identified customer demand as the primary driver of corporate strategy in 2012. While the executives are slightly less optimistic than last year, 40 percent expect their own companies will grow and approximately the same number expect to complete a cross-border merger or acquisition this year. To deliver on their strategies CEOs are reconfiguring operations in local markets, nurturing talent and addressing potential talent shortages, and encouraging the free flow of ideas and innovations. Two significant findings in the survey were a major jump in the concern about competitive threats (73 percent of the CEOs are worried) and a considerable decline in anxiety about risk exposure (a 20 point drop to 19 percent). PwC notes that with more growth opportunities arising in distant lands business leaders are acknowledging that an overly conservative attitude will put their companies at a competitive disadvantage. Lastly, PwC determined that the top CEO priorities overseas are growing the customer base followed by access to the local talent base. Additionally, the PwC study confirmed one of the IBM findings – most CEOs were planning on entering into new strategic alliances or joint ventures this year.

RFG POV: CEOs are embracing the belief that true insights into customer wants and needs will generate additional revenues and loyalty, and customer needs may be better satisfied through acquisitions and partnerships than organic investment. CEOs are also recognizing technology must play a leading role in the areas of business analytics -- including big data collaboration and social media, and business process management. All this is driving cultural and organizational change. However, one of the perennial inhibitors to change is the human behavioral theory "culture eats process for lunch every day." Thus, business and IT executives must excel in executing tough cultural and process changes if they expect to convert their goals and strategies to reality. In that an Economist Intelligence Unit study found that 60 percent of executives believe their main vertical markets will be barely recognizable by 2020, it is imperative that the executives overcome their risk aversion and exposure concerns. Moreover, they must also step up to the challenge and provide the strong leadership required to transform the organization to meet the demands of tomorrow.

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