Business leaders foresee pace of change at new high in 2024

Business leaders faced an all-time-high rate of change in 2023 and now expect it to accelerate further in 2024, according to a new report from Accenture. 

The new annual index ranks six factors of change affecting businesses — technology, talent, economic, geopolitical, climate, and consumer and social — using a range of key business indicators, such as labor productivity and IT spending. 

The index then compares this data to a survey of 3,400 C-suite leaders worldwide, including 790 in the Asia-Pacific region, on how they view the impact of each factor on their organisations as well as their preparedness to respond. 

The index indicator analysis reveals that globally, technology disruption increased the most in 2023, rising to No. 1 from No. 6 in 2022, catapulted by advances in generative AI. 

In the survey, C-suite executives in APAC also ranked technology as the No. 1 cause of change. 

According to the indicator analysis, talent was the No. 2 cause of business change (including issues such as skills shortages and lack of employee engagement); yet in the survey, C-suite leaders in APAC ranked talent at No. 5 (No. 4 globally). 

However, 42% of C-suite leaders globally say skills shortage is one of the top three challenges that would hold back their organisations’ ability to respond to change, underscoring the importance for businesses of making their talent strategy a priority — especially as they work to tap the potential of new technologies. 

The index indicator analysis found that overall, across all six factors, the rate of change globally has risen sharply since 2019 — 183% over the past four years and 33% in the past year alone. 

Ng Wee Wei, senior managing director at Accenture, said that in 2024, a pivotal juncture for businesses in Southeast Asia is marked by a buoyant economic outlook, and reinvention becomes a crucial differentiator for thriving in this climate. 

Ng said that, for instance, findings show that despite 88% expecting technology disruption to accelerate and 89% viewing generative AI as an opportunity, less than half (48%) of C-suite leaders in Singapore feel fully prepared to respond to change. 

“We believe that the companies that will succeed in the next decade are those that embrace a strategy of continuously reinventing every part of their business using technology, data and AI, including harnessing the power of generative AI, and ensuring their people are at the centre of their transformations,” said Ng.

The C-suite survey reveals that rapid pace of change holds continued potential for wide-ranging impact on leaders in the year ahead, as 85% of leaders in APAC (94% in Singapore) anticipate an even faster rate of change in 2024.

Also, 57% see change as an opportunity, and 74% of leaders in APAC (79% in Singapore) expect revenue growth to accelerate in 2024.

Despite their optimism, more than half (55%) of leaders in APAC (48% in Singapore) say they are not fully prepared to respond to the change they will face in the 2024 business environment.