In our previous survey, we reported how CIOs were holding a steady line in the face of global uncertainty, cutting costs and refining business processes. While much of this geopolitical instability remains, this year’s CIO report shows how CIOs are benefiting from bigger budgets and headcount growth. Indeed, more IT leaders are enjoying budget increases than we have seen in the last thirteen years of reporting.
In this year’s survey, we see the CIO role continue to change as organizations themselves are forced to transform. Traditional focus areas like data privacy and security are more important than ever but in order to remain competitive, IT leaders must turn the risks associated with using customer data into enablers for driving new revenue growth. Indeed the report shows that those managing the balance most effectively, with the customer at the heart of their digital strategy, are significantly more profitable.
CIOs rate themselves strongly on traditional IT competencies, like understanding the business, selecting the right technologies and building the associated capabilities, but many recognize there is more work to do in applying this in the digital context. Perhaps the true complexity and pervasiveness of digital can only become clear with the passage of time and truly effective strategies are those that remain flexible and support pragmatic change.
The survey results clearly show how important and challenging the role of a CIO is. No other executive role is undergoing so much change as the CIO, no other executive role has the opportunity to be truly transformational, both for the organization and for the person occupying it.
But ultimately this report shows that the most influential and successful organizations are fanatical about delivering value both to and from their customers. And it shows in the figures - ‘Customer centric’ organizations are 38 per cent more likely to report greater profitability than those that are not.
Last year we tracked how cloud investment continues to grow, and this year we see no let-up, with almost three-quarters of IT leaders reporting moderate or significant investment. Investment in mobile technologies is not far behind. Newer technologies, like Blockchain and virtual reality, whilst much talked about, are the focus of only a small proportion of organizations’ investment spend in niche sectors and have yet to break out into wider adoption. Technology has never been more important to organizations, and with almost half of IT leaders reporting salary increases and budget growth, it is clear that boards are investing in technology.
How organizations leverage data is increasingly becoming a source of competitive advantage. But it is also a risk; consumers are only just beginning to wake up to what information organizations hold on them, and high-profile court cases around data misuse, as well as the introduction of stringent privacy legislation in Europe (GDPR), have focused the minds of both the board and the CIO.
A move towards digital platforms and solutions is proving a huge challenge for CIOs. Many CIO’s report they still struggle - with 78 percent stating that their digital strategy is only moderately effective, or worse.
This year’s survey reveals that operational risk and compliance, alongside data security, are the two biggest growth areas of concern for the board. Whilst data security has been high on the agenda for some time, data privacy and trust are increasingly a concern, and, at least when it comes to the GDPR, many organizations are only just beginning to address it.
CIOs have a really difficult tight rope to walk, organizations that can get the balance right between innovation and governance, are in the strongest position to compete in an increasingly complex technology environment.
A major cyber-attack is big news and inflicts damage not only on operations but also, in a world of fickle consumers and broadcast media, on a business's brand and reputation. This hasn’t gone unrecognized by boards. Protecting the business from a cyber-attack has jumped further up the boardroom agenda than any other item and IT leaders are being supported and encouraged to make their defenses the best that they can be.
It won’t be a surprise to any IT leader that there is a skills shortage: 65 per cent are reporting a lack of skill holding back their strategies – the highest we have recorded since 2008. But CIOs are getting smarter at how they manage their resources. Outsourcing is increasingly being used as a skills enhancer rather than cost saver; and many CIOs are experimenting very successfully with automation, especially in testing, service desk and development. Still this hasn’t stopped CIOs from hiring: in fact this year almost half expect to increase their headcount.
While making a success of digital is proving tough, and hampered by an ongoing skills shortage, successful IT leaders are proving resilient and adaptable, and the CIO remains vital in helping their organization navigate a digital future.