There’s little doubt that globalization is transforming the way we work. But what is it really like to be a global CIO? A recent survey, CIOs at the Tech-junction, focuses specifically on CIOs outside the U.S. and indicates that some problems are universal—like the desire for more respect from other members of the C-suite in terms of corporate technological innovation.
Now in its second year, the study, performed by Deloitte LLP, the UK arm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, surveyed some 900 executives in 49 countries worldwide with CIO and similar titles. Respondents were primarily from Europe, South America, and Oceania. To CIOs who have had to struggle with innovation, many of the study results will sound familiar. “Opportunities for creativity are somewhat limited, with 46 percent of CIOs reserving less than 10 percent of their IT budgets for innovation,” writes ZDNet’s Charles McLellan. On the other hand, money isn’t the biggest issue, he notes. “CIOs also perceive the business leadership’s attitude to risk to be a greater barrier to innovation than IT budgets.”
The CIOs’ problem with innovation is particularly important given that other C-level executives are increasingly getting involved in IT, writes the international law firm of Pinsent Masons. In its blog post analyzing the results of the survey, Pinsent Masons notes that 52 percent of respondents said that while innovation is considered a priority within their organization, it receives only a small proportion of the IT budget. “With new roles such as chief digital officer or chief data officer being created across industries, Deloitte said that there is an onus on CIOs to ‘nurture stronger and trusted relationships with emerging business leaders who champion disruptive trends,’” Pinsent Masons writes. “CIOs should work with individuals in these new roles ‘to enable innovation and growth.’”
Yet 71 percent of CIOs said that for the next 12 to 18 months the top priority is “Drive new business needs,” notes analyst Michael Krigman in his analysis of the survey results. It’s a notion that he finds vague. “Supporting new business needs is the motherhood and apple pie of IT, expressing a positive intention to do what the business needs,” he writes. “However, without more detail, such phrases provide little insight into specific actions IT must take to increase value to the business. For IT to provide optimal benefit, it must offer concrete action plans leading to definite results tied to specific business areas,” he continues. “The organization-wide nature of IT means it must translate specific departmental business goals into clear action steps.”
If nothing else, it certainly seems like innovation is going to be difficult to do if CIOs are having trouble getting the budget and the buy-in to drive innovation. Moreover, “IT may possess an over-inflated sense of confidence when being responsive to business needs,” Krigman adds, based on factors such as the CIO’s relationship with marketing and the rise of shadow IT.
Pinsent Masons also said the survey findings, “suggest that business leaders do not always believe CIOs are the natural choice to drive technological innovation for growth.” The natural question is, why not? What is it about the CIO that is leading these companies to approach other executives instead? Part of the problem, Krigman notes, is that only 49 percent reported that their IT department is a, “strong partner to the business.” “It demonstrates that CIOs possess insight into the reality that many IT organizations do not deliver sufficient value,” he writes.
In addition, several analyses of the results noted a dichotomy between how important CIOs considered relationships with other C-level executives, and how good the CIOs thought those relationships were. “We see that the CIO does not have a ‘very good’ relationship with the CEO, CFO, or COO even though CIOs report these relationships as ‘very important,’” Krigman writes. Obviously, this is something CIOs should be working on.
In the end, Krigman was pretty blunt about the innovation situation. “Although it may take months, perhaps years, to change strongly held, or negative, attitudes toward IT, that is the CIO’s job,” he writes. “If management refuses to support an evolving role for IT, then perhaps the CIO should consider other options.”
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