China CIOs look to prioritise automation and artificial intelligence, finds Harvey Nash / KPMG survey

China CIOs look to prioritise automation and AI


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Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have emerged as new key priorities for CIOs in China to help drive efficiencies and business performance, finds the 20th annual 2018 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey.

The survey features insights from 3,958 CIOs and technology leaders – including 85 from China (including Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR) – across 84 countries and regions.

It also finds that “improving efficiencies through automation” has emerged as one of the top priorities for surveyed China CIOs, replacing “delivering consistent and stable IT performance to the business”, a top priority from 2017. Meanwhile, “improving business processes” and “increasing operational efficiencies” remain key focus areas in 2018.

Nearly half of the China respondents also identified “improving insights and decision making through AI” as a key business priority, compared to 22 percent of their global peers.

James O’Callaghan, Partner and Head of Technology Enablement and Technology Consulting, Hong Kong, KPMG China, says: “We see China CIOs actively reviewing their operating models to organise themselves in more agile way. They are increasingly having to adapt quickly to changing business needs and are becoming more digital in everything they do and in the way they support. This alongside needing to understand the impact of fintech and other emerging technologies to improve their organisations’ operational efficiency.”

The growing importance of automation and AI among China CIOs is reflected in their investment plans. Thirty percent of surveyed China CIOs indicated they have not yet invested in robotic process automation but plan to do so, compared to 18 percent globally. Meanwhile, nearly half of the surveyed China respondents are currently investing in AI/machine learning, and an additional 26 percent of them plan to begin investing in these technologies.

Adam Stuckert, Partner, IT Advisory, KPMG China, says: “CIOs are of increasing strategic importance to the business, particularly in China where the business landscape is rapidly evolving. Embracing innovation is key to success; CIOs need to position digital as both a business transformation accelerator and revenue generator.”

The survey also finds that nearly 70 percent of China CIOs expect their IT budget to increase over the next 12 months, significantly higher than the 48 percent global average.

Eighty-seven percent of surveyed China CIOs highlighted that skill shortages prevent their organisations from keeping up with the pace of change, much higher than the 65 percent global average. In order to deal with the challenges arising from skill shortages, China respondents (85 percent) are more inclined to use automation than their global counterparts (67 percent).

Additionally, close to two-thirds of surveyed China CIOs expect their IT/technology headcount to increase in the next 12 months, a significant increase from 38 percent in 2017. Capabilities in big data/analytics, AI and technical architecture remain the most sought-after skills.

In terms of challenges, IT security/cyber attacks are a growing concern. While a majority of China respondents (83 percent) indicated that their board is doing enough to support their organisations’ cyber security strategy, almost one-third say their organisations are not well-positioned to identify and deal with current and near future IT security/cyber attacks, higher than the global average of 14 percent.

Albert Ellis, CEO, Harvey Nash Group, concludes: “CIOs have a really difficult tight rope to walk. On one hand, the board is asking them to drive innovation, promote transparency and following recent high profile data breaches, ensure the responsible use of customer data throughout the organisation. On the other hand, the board is increasing scrutiny and demanding improved reporting on cyber security, data integrity and resilience, as regulators and consumers become much more demanding on personal data. The organisations that can get this balance right, between innovation and governance, are in the strongest position to compete in an increasingly complex technology environment.”


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About the Survey

In its 20th year, the 2018 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey is the largest IT leadership survey in the world in terms of number of respondents. The survey of 3,958 CIOs and technology leaders was conducted between 20th December 2017 and 3rd April 2018, across 84 countries.


For more information about the survey and to request a full copy of the results, please visit

About Harvey Nash

Harvey Nash has helped over half the world's leading companies recruit, source and manage the highly skilled talent they need to succeed in an
increasingly competitive, global and technology driven world.

With over 2,500 employees in 36 locations, we have the reach and resources of a global organization, whilst fostering a culture of innovation and agility that empowers our people across the world to respond to constantly changing client needs. We work with clients, both large and small, to deliver a portfolio of services: executive search, professional recruitment and IT outsourcing.

To learn more, please visit
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About KPMG China

KPMG China operates in 18 cities across China, with around 12,000 partners and staff in Beijing, Beijing Zhongguancun, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Foshan, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR. With a single management structure across all these offices, KPMG China can deploy experienced professionals efficiently, wherever our client is located.

KPMG is a global network of professional services firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. We operate in 154 countries and territories and have 200,000 people working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

In 1992, KPMG became the first international accounting network to be granted a joint venture licence in mainland China. KPMG China was also the first among the Big Four in mainland China to convert from a joint venture to a special general partnership, as of 1 August 2012. Additionally, the Hong Kong office can trace its origins to 1945. This early commitment to the China market, together with an unwavering focus on quality, has been the foundation for accumulated industry experience, and is reflected in the Chinese member firm’s appointment by some of China’s most prestigious companies.

Media contacts

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Harvey Nash
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