IT will be the “agent of change” for improving business responsiveness during the recession, according to a survey of chief executives and CIOs.

Some 45 per cent of the 300 CEOs and CIOs surveyed said they wanted real time access to key information, as a driver of business responsiveness. Four in ten wanted better integration of IT systems and improved search functionality.

Over a quarter said their businesses were at a competitive disadvantage because they did not have the responsiveness and knowledge to handle shifts in the marketplace, according to the ‘Organisational agility: how businesses can survive and thrive in turbulent times’ report, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by EMC.

Businesses were working hard to improve their responsiveness, the survey found - eight in 10 have undertaken related initiatives in the past three years. But they experienced difficulties, with 34 per cent admitting the initiatives failed because of slow decision making, conflicting departmental goals, risk-averse cultures and a lack of shared information between departments.

Over half said they had wasted valuable time hunting for data, hindering their ability to make rapid business decisions.

Whitney Tidmarsh, chief marketing officer at EMC’s content management arm, said: “Companies today are looking for ways to remain competitive and retain high-value customers while budgets are shrinking beneath them. The key to organisational agility is minimising expensive redundancies and optimising core processes.”

Businesses should make better use of knowledge management and collaboration systems in order to help decision makers, she said. Nevertheless, 81 per cent of businesses said they view knowledge management and collaboration as vital in increasing productivity, performance and innovation.

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