Forbes/Google Study: Rise of the Digital C-Suite How Executives Locate and Filter Business Information
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CEO needs to locate information on a competitor, a business partner, a customer trend, or a news development. What does he or she
do? To find out more about how the C-suite and top-level executives look for business-related information, Forbes Insights, in association with Google, surveyed 354 top executives at large U.S. companies (those with annual sales of greater than $1 billion). These findings were augmented through detailed one-on-one interviews with another 15 high-profile executives. The findings clearly showed that the Internet has become the chief source of business information, but how the Internet is used frequently depends on the age and work experience of the executive.
Among the key findings of the study:
A generational shift is occurring in the C-suite that is transforming
how they use the Internet. Executives who came
of business age with the rise of the personal computer—
typically those between the ages of 40 and 50—are now
assuming leadership positions in corporate America. These
“Generation PC” executives access information more frequently
than executives, see greater value in emerging
Internet technologies, and are willing to retrieve information
in different ways, such as via video or through a
The Internet is the C-suite’s top information resource.
Executives find it more valuable for locating businessrelated
information than references from colleagues,
personal networks, newspapers and magazines, TV and
radio, and conferences and trade shows.
Members of the C-suite search for information themselves.
While delegating research may be part of the stereotype
of a C-level executive, it is not the reality. More than half
of C-level respondents said they prefer to locate information
themselves, making them more self-sufficient in their
information gathering than non-C-suite executives.
When they go to locate information, the C-suite first turns to
mainstream search engines. And they do so frequently, with
six out of ten executives conducting more than six searches
a day. Once they get started on a search, executives are
willing to click around to locate the right information, and
will follow a path of links driven by search results, content,
Video and online networks are emerging as C-suite tools.
While text is still the preferred format for receiving information,
streaming video, webcasts, and similar formats
are increasing in prevalence, especially among executives
under 50. Similarly, although most executives prefer personal
contacts, they are increasingly willing to network and
seek advice through online communities.
Executives in IT are the most prevalent users of the Internet
for information gathering. CIOs and other IT leaders are the
most likely executives to conduct Web searches, use online
communities to gather information and recommendations,
seek out blogs and other Web 2.0 tools, or use online video
Executives under 40 (Generation Netscape) are the most willing
to engage with emerging Internet technologies such as
blogs, wikis, Twitter, mobile computing, and online social
networks. Having come of professional age in the Internet
era, this generation defines fluency in Web technologies. As
they rise into the C-suite, they are likely to take collaboration
and networking in research to unprecedented levels.