A new global study by IBM found that nearly half of CEOs surveyed identify productivity as their highest business priority, up from sixth place in 2022. They recognize technology modernization is key to achieving their productivity goals, ranking it as second highest priority.

The study also found that CEOs are increasingly looking toward operational, technology, and data leaders as strategic decision makers. When asked which C-Suite members will make the most crucial decisions over the next three years, CEO respondents identified COOs (62%) and CFOs (52%). The influence of technology leaders on decision making is also growing, with 38% of surveyed CEOs pointing to CIOs (up from 19% a year ago) as making the most crucial decisions in their organization.

In terms of AI, the study found that three-quarters of CEO respondents believe that competitive advantage will depend on who has the most advanced generative AI. However, executives are also weighing potential risks or barriers of the technology such as bias, ethics, and security. More than half (57%) of CEOs surveyed are concerned about data security and 48% worry about bias or data accuracy.

There is also a disconnect between CEOs and their teams when it comes to AI readiness. Half (50%) of CEOs surveyed report they are already integrating generative AI into products and services, and 43% say they are using generative AI to inform strategic decisions. Yet, just 29% of their executive teams agree they have the in-house expertise to adopt generative AI; only 30% of non-CEO senior executives surveyed say that their organization is ready to adopt generative AI responsibly.

The study concludes that CEOs need to assess their company requirements around data privacy, intellectual property protection, security, algorithmic accountability, and governance in order to plan their deployment of emerging use cases of generative AI at scale.

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