Just how important are things like mobile technology, social media and cloud computing to businesses today?

Can a business expect to survive and thrive if it doesn’t stay on top of the latest trends in technology? According to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the answer is, not surprisingly, ‘no.’

The firm’s 4th Digital IQ report (PDF) involved surveying just under 500 U.S. companies with at least $500m in annual revenue, with a focus on those with more than $1bn in annual revenue. It looked at how these firms are adopting technology and addressing the “consumerization of IT.”

It found that there are four key trends that are forcing executives at these companies to “rethink their strategies”:

  • The growth of mobile. While many companies are adopting mobile tools for their employees, just 45% are using mobile significantly to engage with their customers.
  • The use of social media as a source of customer data. Despite all of the hype around social media in the past several years, well under half (37%) of the businesses PwC surveyed are investing in social media tools to interact with customers.
  • The rise of public cloud-based business applications. Cloud-based applications give employees the ability do things they never could before, like perform sophisticated processes while on the go. Not surprisingly, adopting public cloud applications is something many businesses have done slowly, but PwC sees broad investment in this area in 2012 across the companies polled.
  • The constant and increasingly rapid creation of data. For most businesses, data is a valuable competitive asset. The good news is that there’s more and more of it. The bad news is that there’s more and more of it. As PwC notes, “According to some estimates, the world today creates as much information every couple days than was created from the dawn of civilization until just a few years ago.” So it’s no surprise that over half (56%) of the companies participating in the 4th Digital IQ survey plan to collect more consumer data this year, and nearly half (45%) will collect more data around operational performance.

According to PwC, the good news is that “strategic IT remains a viable and vital business differentiator.” The bad news is that “IT organizations that can serve customers and their firm, deliver projects on time and on budget, and distill mountains of bits into meaningful insights are as rare as ever.”

To succeed, companies will increasingly need to boost their ‘digital IQs’ by plotting out a long-term technology strategy, mobilizing the organization to act on it and focusing on “back-to-basics” execution.