IBM Global C-suite Study
20th Edition
Build Your Trust Advantage
Leadership in the era of data and AI everywhere

Data has become inextricably entwined with trust, changing the value equation. Uncover the deep importance of data and trust for gaining a competitive edge in your industry in the 20th Edition IBM Global C-suite Study. Understand how an elite group of enterprises—we call them Torchbearers—are commanding data and trust to their spectacular advantage.
13,000+
We spoke with more than 13,000 C-suite executives worldwide about data, the value they derive from it, and what it takes to lead in a world awash with data. Discover the strategies behind their success in the 20th Edition IBM Global C-suite Study.
13,000+
We spoke with more than 13,000 C-suite executives worldwide about data, the value they derive from it, and what it takes to lead in a world awash with data. Discover the strategies behind their success in the 20th Edition IBM Global C-suite Study.
Study overview
The four stages of data leadership
Torchbearers
As a group, they have excelled in fusing their data strategy to their business strategy, with trust as the plumb line. Operating in a data-rich culture, they generate higher revenue growth and profitability than their peers.
Explorers
Enterprises in this group experiment with ways to integrate their business and data strategies and extract value from data. They don’t consistently realize its highest possible value, but they see the trust economy as a path to achieving outstanding mutual benefit.
The four stages of data leadership
Torchbearers
As a group, they have excelled in fusing their data strategy to their business strategy, with trust as the plumb line. Operating in a data-rich culture, they generate higher revenue growth and profitability than their peers.
Customers
How to win in the trust economy
Torchbearers
Aspirationals
Using data to strengthen customer trust, to a large extent
43%
|
82%
“Customers expect personalization, underpinned by data. However, there remains a question as to how much information customers will share, given the erosion of trust.”
CEO
| Banking
Australia

The ways in which organizations transparently share data about their offerings, take responsibility for the personal data they collect, and use data to their customers’ benefit determine their market position. The trust customers once gave, almost blindly, to brands and institutions has been slipping away for some time. They now demand something else: transparency of data associated with products and services and, in the case of personal data, assurances that it’s used in a fair manner and kept safe.

With data breaches making headlines monthly, if not weekly, data privacy is an important competitive advantage. Customers demand transparency about their personal data today; tomorrow, their expectations could escalate. Organizations that lack trust—cut off from prized personal data—could find themselves slipping further behind.

Torchbearers have moved well beyond understanding customer needs. They are using customer data to transform their workflows to deliver value at every customer touchpoint. In fact, eight in ten Torchbearers are pursuing a singular advantage: they have turned to data to strengthen, to a great extent, the level of trust their customers have in them. Yet, fewer than half of Aspirationals are doing the same.
Take action

Step one
Pursue customer trust. Start with data transparency, including establishing credentials; engaging in a reciprocal exchange of data for customer value; and committing to data security.
Step two
Earn it or lose it. Companies that earn customer trust are more likely to keep the data they have—and collect more of it.
Step three
Capitalize on the trust you’ve earned from customers and the trust you have in their data to transform your business models.
Customers
How to win in the trust economy
“Customers expect personalization, underpinned by data. However, there remains a question as to how much information customers will share, given the erosion of trust.”
CEO
| Banking
Australia

The ways in which organizations transparently share data about their offerings, take responsibility for the personal data they collect, and use data to their customers’ benefit determine their market position. The trust customers once gave, almost blindly, to brands and institutions has been slipping away for some time. They now demand something else: transparency of data associated with products and services and, in the case of personal data, assurances that it’s used in a fair manner and kept safe.

With data breaches making headlines monthly, if not weekly, data privacy is an important competitive advantage. Customers demand transparency about their personal data today; tomorrow, their expectations could escalate. Organizations that lack trust—cut off from prized personal data—could find themselves slipping further behind.

Torchbearers have moved well beyond understanding customer needs. They are using customer data to transform their workflows to deliver value at every customer touchpoint. In fact, eight in ten Torchbearers are pursuing a singular advantage: they have turned to data to strengthen, to a great extent, the level of trust their customers have in them. Yet, fewer than half of Aspirationals are doing the same.
Torchbearers
Aspirationals
Using data to strengthen customer trust, to a large extent
43%
|
82%
Take action

Step one
Pursue customer trust. Start with data transparency, including establishing credentials; engaging in a reciprocal exchange of data for customer value; and committing to data security.
Step two
Earn it or lose it. Companies that earn customer trust are more likely to keep the data they have—and collect more of it.
Step three
Capitalize on the trust you’ve earned from customers and the trust you have in their data to transform your business models.
Enterprises
How to build the human-tech partnership
Torchbearers
Aspirationals
Our C-suite team has the data mindset needed to improve the quality of decision making
34%
|
78%
“The governance of data and how we govern AI models—how they’re validated and used—are now board-level issues. So, too, is the ethical use of data.”
COO
| Banking
Netherlands

Data, coupled with advanced analytics and AI, including machine learning, can inform superior enterprise decisions and optimize and automate processes—but only if organizations can deeply trust their data. To do so, organizations are learning to master the quality of data, mitigate algorithmic bias, and serve up answers with evidence.

But for many, data still appears too open to interpretation to be relied on for decisions of consequence. Here is where Torchbearers diverge. Eight in ten Torchbearers say that they and their C-suite colleagues have deep trust in data to perfect the quality and speed of the decisions they make. They have a data mindset, meaning they’re predisposed to use data as the basis for significant decisions. In contrast, only one-third of Aspirationals tell us the executives in their C-suite have a true data mindset.

As well, Torchbearers stand apart in their focus on exponential technologies, especially machine learning and AI. AI-supported organizations turn decisions into iterative innovation and intelligent workflows. They’re at the forefront of delivering customer experiences that are not just personalized but humanized, building trust through never-before-possible services.
Take action

Step one
Develop a data mindset to enhance the quality and speed of your decision making, and give your employees the tools to do the same.
Step two
Focus on AI to make sense of data in context and reveal new paths forward. Create value by combining exponential technologies, with AI central to the effort.
Step three
Institute robust governance. Data that is clean, current, and curated creates something profound: confidence in data and the AI models it supports.
Enterprises
How to build the human-tech partnership
“The governance of data and how we govern AI models—how they’re validated and used—are now board-level issues. So, too, is the ethical use of data.”
COO
| Banking
Netherlands

Data, coupled with advanced analytics and AI, including machine learning, can inform superior enterprise decisions and optimize and automate processes—but only if organizations can deeply trust their data. To do so, organizations are learning to master the quality of data, mitigate algorithmic bias, and serve up answers with evidence.

But for many, data still appears too open to interpretation to be relied on for decisions of consequence. Here is where Torchbearers diverge. Eight in ten Torchbearers say that they and their C-suite colleagues have deep trust in data to perfect the quality and speed of the decisions they make. They have a data mindset, meaning they’re predisposed to use data as the basis for significant decisions. In contrast, only one-third of Aspirationals tell us the executives in their C-suite have a true data mindset.

As well, Torchbearers stand apart in their focus on exponential technologies, especially machine learning and AI. AI-supported organizations turn decisions into iterative innovation and intelligent workflows. They’re at the forefront of delivering customer experiences that are not just personalized but humanized, building trust through never-before-possible services.
Torchbearers
Aspirationals
Our C-suite team has the data mindset needed to improve the quality of decision making
34%
|
78%
Take action

Step one
Develop a data mindset to enhance the quality and speed of your decision making, and give your employees the tools to do the same.
Step two
Focus on AI to make sense of data in context and reveal new paths forward. Create value by combining exponential technologies, with AI central to the effort.
Step three
Institute robust governance. Data that is clean, current, and curated creates something profound: confidence in data and the AI models it supports.
Ecosystems
How to share data in the platform era
Torchbearers
Aspirationals
Engaging partner network to access new data is very important
33%
|
58%
“We plan to give the clients in our ecosystem full access to data so they can do business with each other and learn about each other's skills and capabilities.”
CEO
| Financial Markets
France

Many organizations aren’t yet fully sharing data inside the enterprise, let alone with business partners in their ecosystem. But industry executives recognize that when data is shared among organizations, it can grow immensely in value. Business platforms, where data circulates freely among multiple parties, are earning outsized returns.

In every industry, companies are turning to platforms and ecosystems of partners in pursuit of new heterogeneous data. Yet, just 33 percent of Aspirationals are sharing data with their network partners. At 58 percent, almost twice as many Torchbearers distribute data across ecosystems.

But paradoxically, proprietary data can also be an organization’s core advantage. Organizations will need to learn when and how to share data widely and when to keep it close. This may well be the most complex and sophisticated strategic challenge that business leaders face as the data economy grows.
Take action

Step one
Evaluate which of your datasets are composed of truly non-rivalrous data that could be shared to accrue new value and which should remain proprietary.
Step two
Understand that emerging digital business platforms necessitate a new approach to data sharing. Generate exponential value with data from trusted ecosystem partners and evolving systems.
Step three
Formulate an enterprise data monetization strategy and apply it to new business models. Use the economic value of data sharing to help you select ecosystem partners.
Ecosystems
How to share data in the platform era
“We plan to give the clients in our ecosystem full access to data so they can do business with each other and learn about each other's skills and capabilities.”
CEO
| France
Financial Markets

Many organizations aren’t yet fully sharing data inside the enterprise, let alone with business partners in their ecosystem. But industry executives recognize that when data is shared among organizations, it can grow immensely in value. Business platforms, where data circulates freely among multiple parties, are earning outsized returns.

In every industry, companies are turning to platforms and ecosystems of partners in pursuit of new heterogeneous data. Yet, just 33 percent of Aspirationals are sharing data with their network partners. At 58 percent, almost twice as many Torchbearers distribute data across ecosystems.

But paradoxically, proprietary data can also be an organization’s core advantage. Organizations will need to learn when and how to share data widely and when to keep it close. This may well be the most complex and sophisticated strategic challenge that business leaders face as the data economy grows.
Torchbearers
Aspirationals
Engaging partner network to access new data is very important
33%
|
58%
Take action

Step one
Evaluate which of your datasets are composed of truly non-rivalrous data that could be shared to accrue new value and which should remain proprietary.
Step two
Understand that emerging digital business platforms necessitate a new approach to data sharing. Generate exponential value with data from trusted ecosystem partners and evolving systems.
Step three
Formulate an enterprise data monetization strategy and apply it to new business models. Use the economic value of data sharing to help you select ecosystem partners.
Action guide
Prove transparency
Earn (back) trust by learning to use data in a way that customers view as fair.
Earn reciprocity
Give your customers something they value in return for their data.
Demonstrate accountability
Strengthen your data privacy policies and programs.
Double-click on data
Reposition data as an asset of strategic value rather than being viewed in tactical, operational terms.
Future-proof your strategy
Craft scenarios involving data in order to increase personalization and engagement at every touchpoint.
Lead trust in data from the top
Put data-based decision making at the top of the C-suite’s agenda.
Empower employees to become citizen scientists
Liberate your data from the ground up.
Push the envelope on data and technology
Expand your horizons on what data can do.
Establish enterprise-wide data governance
Be transparent about your analytics, AI models, and data processes, and establish enterprise-wide data governance.
Leverage the power of hybrid cloud
Provide the scale for data proliferation as you broaden the range and diversity of your data sources.
Use data to refresh your business strategy
Be restless and look for deeper insights into customers, markets, and competitors.
Develop a data-sharing roadmap
Decide what data you are prepared to share and what data you have to keep close to your chest.
Establish secure data exchange
Create security, transparency, and accountability for data that runs through your business platforms, well beyond your enterprise’s borders.
Build and keep trusted partnerships
Recognize each party’s role and understand the rewards you can achieve through deep collaboration.
Create a data monetization strategy
Recognize your data as one of the most valuable assets your company has, and establish a monetization strategy.
Action guide
How to
win in the trust economy
Prove transparency
Earn (back) trust by learning to use data in a way that customers view as fair.
Earn reciprocity
Give your customers something they value in return for their data.
Demonstrate accountability
Strengthen your data privacy policies and programs.
Double-click on data
Reposition data as an asset of strategic value rather than being viewed in tactical, operational terms.
Future-proof your strategy
Craft scenarios involving data in order to increase personalization and engagement at every touchpoint.
How to
build the human-tech partnership
Lead trust in data from the top
Put data-based decision making at the top of the C-suite’s agenda.
Empower employees to become citizen scientists
Liberate your data from the ground up.
Push the envelope on data and technology
Expand your horizons on what data can do.
Establish enterprise-wide data governance
Be transparent about your analytics, AI models, and data processes, and establish enterprise-wide data governance.
Leverage the power of hybrid cloud
Provide the scale for data proliferation as you broaden the range and diversity of your data sources.
How to
share data in the platform era
Use data to refresh your business strategy
Be restless and look for deeper insights into customers, markets, and competitors.
Develop a data-sharing roadmap
Decide what data you are prepared to share and what data you have to keep close to your chest.
Establish secure data exchange
Create security, transparency, and accountability for data that runs through your business platforms, well beyond your enterprise’s borders.
Build and keep trusted partnerships
Recognize each party’s role and understand the rewards you can achieve through deep collaboration.
Create a data monetization strategy
Recognize your data as one of the most valuable assets your company has, and establish a monetization strategy.
IBM Global C-suite Study
20th Edition
IBM Global C-suite Study
20th Edition
C-suite Study contacts
Jamie Cattell
Digital Strategy Global Leader
IBM Services
Jesus Mantas
Managing Partner
IBM Services
Francesca Rossi
AI Ethics Global Leader
IBM Research
Rob Thomas
General Manager
IBM Data and Watson AI
Marie Wieck
General Manager
IBM Blockchain
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