We asked CEOs about the biggest challenges facing their businesses.

By Alan Murray
June 8, 2017

What’s the biggest challenge facing Fortune 500 companies?

That’s the question we put to the CEOs of all 500, and gave them a list to choose from: skilled labor shortages, competition from China, competition from start-ups, cyber security, shareholder activism, management diversity, employee diversity, geopolitical risk, and increased regulation.

Last year, in the final year of President Obama’s eight-year term, it was increased regulation that had them most concerned, with 69% of those responding saying it was either their single biggest challenge or one of their top three or four challenges. But this year, with a new man in Washington, that concern has subsided, with only 40% ranking it so high.

The bigger concerns this year: The rapid pace of technological change (73%, up from 64% last year) and cyber security (61%, up from 59% last year.)

Technology is very much top of mind for today’s CEOs, with 71% agreeing with the statement, “These days, I consider my company to be a technology company” (up from 67% last year). Asked which technologies are most important to their futures, they give cloud computing, mobile computing, and the Internet of things high marks. But the big change from last year is that 81% cited “artificial intelligence and machine learning” as either “very important” or “extremely important” to their company’s future, up from just 54% in 2016.

You can see more of the survey results here. A word on methodology, since my former colleagues at the Pew Research Center will ask. We sent an email survey directly to each of the 500 CEOs, and asked that they personally answer the questions. Seventy-two of them responded—a response rate of 14%. Given the busy lives these folks lead, that’s not too shabby. If you would like to try the survey yourself, you may do so here.

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