How challenging times differentiate technology leaders - KPMG Global
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How challenging times differentiate technology leaders

How challenging times differentiate technology leaders

CIOs are going back to the basics.


Head of Solutions and Digital

KPMG in the UK


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Technology leaders are no strangers to change. Yet, according to the CIOs surveyed as part of the 2017 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, the tumultuous global events of the past year were beyond the ordinary. Uncertain political and economic situations had noticeable impacts on IT business operations and strategy across industries.

This year, 4,498 technology leaders from 86 countries participated in the survey, making it the largest IT leadership survey ever undertaken. The result is a broad-ranging snapshot of a year of pivotal change. Responses also provide insight into the patterns of thought, behavior and investment that differentiate today’s technology leaders.

According to the survey, the majority of IT executives adapted their technology strategy to respond to the unpredictable social, political and economic environment. The role of the CIO became more important, with many taking a “back to basics” approach toward IT strategy and management. CIOs highlighted a number of traditional IT priorities as top concerns such as a consistent and stable IT performance, cost savings and increased operational efficiencies.

Unpredictable circumstances drove a significant amount of CIO interest and investment in growing areas. More than half of survey respondents said they were looking at more nimble technology platforms to help them navigate uncertainty. They also said they were increasing their cyber security investments.

Leaders reported that the need to work within a restricted budget was a growing concern. At the same time, the majority of CIOs indicated that projects are increasing in both complexity and ambition. This can paint a concerning picture. Many IT leaders may be asked to do more with less, with businesses tightening the purse strings even as digital transformation becomes increasingly important to business performance. Weak ownership, an overly optimistic approach, and unclear objectives also emerged as the main reasons that IT projects fail.

While uncertainty has caused challenges for many leaders, others have used it as an opportunity to differentiate and excel. These leaders are using transformational behavior, coupled with an aggressive approach to engaging business stakeholders, to set their businesses apart.

Looking at these technology leaders, certain patterns emerge. CIOs who are helping their companies thrive in uncertain times are more likely to:

  • Sit on the executive committee or participate at the board level in a position of strategic influence.
  • Position themselves and the IT function to play a key role in delivering technology-enabled innovation.
  • Work closely with business stakeholders to align IT strategy and approach to business objectives. This is especially critical in situations where the business is adopting new models or transforming interactions with customers or employees.
  • Expand the reach of their talent searches, embracing new skills and approaches, and identifying talent in unexpected places.
  • Take calculated risks on technology innovation, including making investments in disruptive technologies.

Given their unique characteristics and positioning, perhaps it is not surprising that these leaders are at the forefront of another trend. While the majority of CIOs reported that their budgets were stable, nearly half of the CIOs at companies identified as digital leaders saw a budget increase over the last year.

This blog only touches on a few of the findings of the 2017 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey. In the in-depth report, we also look at a range of critical issues affecting today’s CIOs - from board priorities and business relationships to career growth and approaches to emerging technologies. Differences in IT approach and performance by region, company size, and industry are also examined.

For further insights, please visit Harvey Nash / KPMG CIO Survey 2017.

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