91% regional C-level executives believe data creates strategic advantage, IBM study

Hossam Seif El-Din, Vice President, Enterprise and Commercial, IBM Middle East and Africa

IBM’s 20th edition of its bi-annual C-Suite Study, Build Your Trust Advantage, polled nearly 900 C-level executives across the Middle East and Africa, MEA, to examine how companies in the region are achieving market leadership by emphasising trust in their use and sharing of data.

The study, conducted by IBM Institute for Business Value in cooperation with Oxford Economics, found that market leadership is most frequently attained when an organisation establishes a high level of trust in the data from its customers, its own business processes, and across its partner ecosystem.

Through the quantitative and qualitative surveys issued, it became clear there was a set of leaders, dubbed Torchbearers, that stood out as understanding that transparency, reciprocity and accountability are critical ingredients for earning trust among key stakeholders. These leaders have a deep understanding that building trust in customer relationships is a strategic imperative and work hard to earn and maintain it.

In fact, 91% of leaders in MEA, compared to 82% of their peers globally, strongly believe data helps create a strategic advantage in strengthening their level of customer trust as well as their bottom lines. Torchbearers in MEA also outpace their peers in the region by 48% in their capacity to respect customers’ data privacy as a core competitive advantage.  Globally, Torchbearers outpace their peers by 22%.

While the study focuses on the need for transparency on how companies handle customer data, it also highlights the importance of trusting data that’s within an organisation. Leaders in MEA were found to take great pains to ensure that the data within its own walls is accurate and clean so they can leverage it to make the best-informed decisions on important business ventures, such as developing new business models and entering new or emerging markets.

In MEA, 80% already extensively use data to develop new business models, compared to a global average of 70%. While 73% already use data to make informed decisions on entering new markets, compared to a global average of 66%. 70% of C-suite executives in MEA believe that automation of decision-making processes will increase in their business landscape over the next 2-3 years, compared to 65% of their peers globally.

The study also revealed an emphasis on the importance of creating trustworthy ecosystems. Data that simply stays within the organisation is more likely to drift out of date than to grow in value. Leading organisations are liberating their data while simultaneously de-risking data exchanges in a shared ecosystem, allowing it to circulate widely, without sacrificing their responsibility to secure permissions and safeguard it.

While the study provides the guidance that companies should always practice transparency, reciprocity and accountability when handling data and engaging customers and business partners, other recommendations include:

  • Strengthen relationships with customers by becoming trusted custodians of personal data, demonstrating transparency by revealing data about offerings and workflows, and using the trust advantage they’ve earned to create differentiating business models.
  • Build confidence in data and AI models enterprise wide. Stimulate a culture of true data believers and data-based decision makers, and in turn, elevate experiences for customers and partners along their value chains.
  • Learn how to share data on business platforms without giving away competitive edge. Turn the corner from amassing data to determining how best to monetise it, including how to build ecosystems to create new exponential value.

“Today, data is considered one of the most important assets that any organisation possesses,” says Hossam Seif El-Din, Vice President, Enterprise and Commercial, IBM Middle East and Africa. “Not only does data have the power to differentiate businesses from their competition but transform entire business models. According to the recent C-Suite study, we are seeing that the majority of leaders in our region strongly believe data helps create a strategic advantage in strengthening their level of customer trust as well as their bottom lines.”