How to thrive in a post-pandemic reality with insights from the Benelux

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The latest IBM Institute for Business Value C-Suite Study looks at our new post-pandemic reality through the lens of 3,000 CEOs across 26 industries and almost 50 countries, including 100 from the Benelux. This comprehensive new report takes the pulse of the current business environment, investigating how organizations can step up to outperform their peers.


The C-Suite Series

The IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) is IBM’s strategic think tank that focuses on technology informed business insights, fact-based leadership, and benchmarking. Since 2003, IBV has researched and shared 21 CxO reports based on interviews with over 50,000 C-level executives. Future reports will look at the growing importance and prominence of CIOs and CTOs, and the role of sustainability. The latest report is Find your essential: how to thrive in a post-pandemic reality.


Shared principles

The 3,000 interviewed CEOs for the latest IBV report agreed on three priorities that are essential for the organization to gain a strategic advantage in the market. These priorities are performing with purposeful agility; making technology matter more; and embracing emerging regulations as a benefit not a burden.


Outperforming the market

Some CEOs had managed to turn these priorities into a clear strategic advantage that enabled them to outperform their competition. Approximately 20% of the interviewed CEOs could be counted as an Outperformer, producing better results than their competition for the three years prior to the pandemic, a trend that they continued during the pandemic itself. The survey also identified a similar number of Underperformers at the opposite end of the spectrum.

However, while all CEOs focused on agility, technology, and regulations, the Outperformers had a slightly different perspective, and focused their attention on leadership, technology, employees, open innovation, and cybersecurity.



Outperformers have a more focused set of priorities than other CEOs, demonstrating decisive strategic leadership based on active data gathered by the integration of technology within the organization’s operations. 85% of Outperformers cite leadership as critical to business performance compared to 69% of Underperformers.

In the Benelux, CEOs focus their attention on agility, accountability, and security more than on just leadership. This is due to the importance of these priorities for supply chains which play a strong role in industries in the region.




Technology is more than a tool. As Outperformers know, it can be vital for differentiating an organization from its competition in the minds of consumers. In general, Outperformers closely follow the forward-looking risks and opportunities of emerging technologies, with Outperformers twice as likely as Underperformers to identify tech infrastructure as a top challenge.

In the Benelux, there is definite room for improvement as very few of the CEOs interviewed acted like an Outperformer when it came to technology.



The pandemic has shone light onto the role of employees and how the organization needs to engage them and meet their needs and expectations. In addition to providing a healthy work-life balance, as all CEOs do, Outperformers take their relationship with their employees a step further, looking into their mental health and providing career development options. In fact, 97% more Outperformers than Underperformers support employee wellbeing, even if it hurts profitability.


Open innovation

Outperformers are extremely interested in building partnerships based on open innovation. While this is not a new finding, it is important to note how it has changed in recent years. Previously executives were interested in the number of partnerships they could establish, compared to their current focus on tightening their existing partnerships. A clear sign of quality over quantity.

Compared to the rest of the world, CEOs in the Benelux are inspired by generating insights and creating value from customer data. This is probably due to the dominance of the supply chain industry in the region.



The last element that Outperformers focus on is Cybersecurity, including data privacy and trust. When asked about risk readiness, 37% of all Outperformers said they felt confident about facing new risks, more than double the number of Benelux CEOs that gave the same response.

This distinction was repeated when CEOs were asked about technology’s role in enhancing security, with Outperformers generally stating that technology was a potent tool to help, while CEOs from the Benelux only seeing challenges when it came to using technology to comply with regulations.


Benchmark your organization

How would your organization measure up against the Outperformers? Contact IBM for a benchmarking session where an IBM expert will guide you through the ways your organization interacts with the market and your stakeholders before comparing your answers to those of Outperformers and discussing how your organization can follow in their footsteps.

Benchmark your organization >


Download the report

Are you interested in the full results? Click the link below to download IBV’s ‘Find your essential: how to thrive in a post-pandemic reality’ report.

Download the report >


C-suite Studies Orchestration @ IBM Institute for Business Value

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