Speed of Technology Advancements, Resistance to Change Seen as Top Risks for Businesses Worldwide, Protiviti-NC State University Survey Finds

Press Release

MENLO PARK, CA  December 7, 2017 – The rapid pace of technological developments and disruptive innovations, along with organizational resistance to change, are the top concerns for boards of directors and business leaders around the world heading into 2018, according to the results of the sixth annual Executive Perspectives on Top Risks Survey conducted by global consulting firm Protiviti and the Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Initiative in the North Carolina State University Poole College of Management.

Released today, the survey report, “Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2018,” assesses the concerns of 728 board members and executives globally. The results indicate that growing concerns around disruptive innovation significantly outpace fears of economic uncertainty and regulatory scrutiny, which have consistently been the top risk issues of board members and executives over the past several years. Threats related to cybersecurity are a top risk area for business leaders as well, particularly in light of recent cyberattacks such as WannaCry, along with those affecting major organizations like Equifax. Of particular note, board members across all industries perceive a much riskier environment in 2018 relative to 2017.

“Disruption and digital transformation are taking place across all industries and threatening core business models,” said Pat Scott, an executive vice president with Protiviti. “It’s clear from our latest survey that there has been a major shift in the top concerns for organizations. Digitalization-related risks have supplanted overall economic conditions and regulatory scrutiny atop the list of risk issues for board members and executives who are worried that new technologies and their impact on established business models could outpace their organizations’ ability to keep up and remain competitive.”

“It’s no longer a question of if digital will upend your business, but when,” said Jim DeLoach, a Protiviti managing director. “While a number of organizations already have digital strategies in place, digital transformation needs to become entrenched as a core part of the organization to ensure that companies are able to embrace disruptive change in the current business environment. This risk plus heightened concerns regarding resistance to change create a formidable challenge to executives and directors. Leaders know that failure to keep up with the rapid pace of change can place an organization in the position of becoming captive to events rather than charting its own course.”

The Top 10 Risks for 2018

Following are the top 10 risks identified in the “Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2018” report:

  1. Rapid speed of disruptive innovations and/or new technologies may outpace our organization’s ability to compete and/or manage the risk appropriately, without making significant changes to our business model.
  2. Resistance to change may restrict our organization from making necessary adjustments to the business model and core operations.
  3. Our organization may not be sufficiently prepared to manage cyber threats.
  4. Regulatory changes and regulatory scrutiny may heighten.
  5. Our organization’s culture may not sufficiently encourage the timely identification and escalation of risk issues.
  6. Our organization’s succession challenges and ability to attract and retain top talent may limit our ability to achieve operational targets.
  7. Ensuring privacy/identity management and information security/system protection may require significant resources for us.
  8. Economic conditions in the markets we currently serve may significantly restrict growth opportunities.
  9. Inability to utilize data analytics and big data to achieve market intelligence and increase productivity and efficiency may significantly affect our management of core operations and strategic plans.
  10. Our existing operations may not be able to meet performance expectations related to quality, time to market, cost and innovation, as well as our competitors, especially new competitors that are “born digital” and with a low cost base for their operations.

From an industry perspective, the financial services and energy and utilities industry groups saw the largest decrease in overall risk concerns compared to 2017. This is likely due to reduced concerns about macroeconomic risks and regulatory change, as reflected in the survey findings. The technology, media and communications industry group expressed the highest concern regarding the magnitude and severity of risks overall.

“In light of the shifting risk landscape, it’s particularly interesting to observe an increasing concern among survey respondents that their organization’s culture may not sufficiently encourage the timely identification and escalation of risk issues to senior management and the board,” said Dr. Mark Beasley, Deloitte Professor of Enterprise Risk Management and director of NC State’s ERM Initiative. “As boards of directors and senior executives seek to improve their understanding of emerging risk issues, they may need to re-evaluate how their organization’s culture might be impacting the robustness and transparency of their risk identification and risk reporting efforts,” added Beasley.

The Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2018 survey was conducted in the fall of 2017, and respondents represent both U.S.-based and non-U.S.-based organizations across public and private sectors. The survey report also provides detailed insights broken out by size and type of company, respondent role and industry.

Resources Available to Learn More; Webinar on December 14

The “Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2018” report from Protiviti and North Carolina State University, along with an infographic, video and podcast highlighting the survey results, are available for complimentary download at erm.ncsu.edu/toprisksreport and www.protiviti.com/toprisks. The first in a series of complimentary 60-minute webinars exploring the implications of the survey results will be held on December 14 at 10 a.m. PST, featuring NC State’s Dr. Beasley and Protiviti’s Jim DeLoach and Pat Scott

About Protiviti

Protiviti (www.protiviti.com) is a global consulting firm that delivers deep expertise, objective insights, a tailored approach, and unparalleled collaboration to help leaders confidently face the future. Protiviti and its independent and locally owned Member Firms provide clients with consulting and managed solutions in finance, technology, operations, data, digital, legal, governance, risk and internal audit through its network of more than 85 offices in over 25 countries.

Named to the 2022 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list, Protiviti has served more than 80 percent of Fortune 100 and nearly 80 percent of Fortune  500 companies. The firm also works with smaller, growing companies, including those looking to go public, as well as with government agencies. Protiviti is a wholly owned subsidiary of Robert Half (NYSE: RHI). Founded in 1948, Robert Half is a member of the S&P 500 index.

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Kathy Keller
Kathy Keller