Main takeaways for CIOs from the global C-suite study
Technological advances are transforming the way we connect, disrupting the status quo and creating huge turbulence. Industries are converging, and new opportunities and threats are emerging, as never before.
The pace of change is top of mind for CIOs. We live in an age where technology is nearly obsolete by the time it has been implemented and deployed. Gone are the days of 5-year and 7-year technology deployment plans, instead CIOs must oversee a near-continuous digital transformation of their enterprise, constantly. Add to that the critical nature of today’s technology infrastructure — i.e. can your business run without computers, networks, or the Internet — and you get a good sense for the level of stress CIOs are facing today.
In 2016, IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV) sought to explore the CIO’s perspective, as part of a wider study focusing on the C-Suite. For the CIO angle, the IBV study interviewed 1,805 CIOs from around the world. The study sought to answer what the CIOs at the most successful enterprises do differently than their peers. They found a small, but distinctive group, representing about 4% of CIOs. Compared to the rest of the pack, this small group, termed the Torchbearers, stood out by their ability to be “creating intelligent, agile cultures; wising up to the needs of customers; and rewiring the way their organizations reason.” At the other extreme stood a large chunk of respondents (35%), termed Market-Followers for their lower market profile and stemming from less financially successful organizations.
When it comes to the factors that worry CIOs, 77% are worried about “the disruptive influence of new technologies” and the inability to see the next competitor in time to be able to react to them, a concern echoed by the rest of the C-Suite. Which new technologies did CIOs expect to have the most impact? They pointed to mobile solutions (71%), cloud computing (66%), and the Internet of Things (61%).
The torchbearer secret to success?
No business can remain relevant by making ‘tweaks.’ The only way to stay ahead of disruptive change is to embrace it, which means being able to develop and release new products and services within weeks or even days. — IBM IBV 2016 Global C-suite Study – The CIO Point of View
CIOs know that to be able to thrive — or just survive — in an era of converging industries, global competition, and high-speed innovation, they need to move towards technology investments that provide their organizations with insight and foresight, instead of a rear-view mirror vision of progress and capabilities. Seventy-one percent of Torchbearer CIOs consider the “strategic implications of new technologies,” looking to save costs but also add to the bottom line by stimulating innovation. But these CIOs also know that a traditional implementation model won’t cut it, which is why 90% of Torchbearer CIOs support agile innovation, compared to just 36% of Market-Follower CIOs.
CIOs today know they must continue to watch operating costs — in many cases do more with less — yet also provide great service quality, minimal downtime, increased agility, while also ensuring the security of the organization’s data. These are tall orders, and CIOs know that they do not have the in-house capability to deliver all these traits simultaneously.
Torchbearer CIOs are more likely to form partnerships to reap the full benefits of technological improvements. They realize the benefits of collaboration with others, not only leveraging their systems and capabilities to provide both the level and the range of services that are required for the organization to compete today, but also to continue to be competitive tomorrow. Yet all these systems and data are likely to use different operating platforms, and thus need to be integrated.
Takeaways for CIOs
But in order to provide this agility, CIOs need to rethink how they plan for and use technology to meet the ever-changing needs of the organization. Unless they have the luxury of time and the ability to manually integrate disparate systems, CIOs need help to improve the way they plan and manage the strategy around the automation and integration of IT infrastructure. This is where partnering with world-class enterprise service providers comes in. For example, in May 2017, the Everest Group named IBM as the Leader in IT Infrastructure Automation. They also pointed to IBM’s recent successes in leveraging cognitive computing to improve the way IT services are planned for, implemented, and delivered.
The most successful CIOs fully appreciate the need to forge alliances with the rest of the C-Suite, and they never lose focus on the value that they bring to all aspects of the business, from IT as critical business infrastructure, to maintaining a watchful eye over data, but also to investing in tools and technologies that will extract business intelligence out of the mountains of data. When it comes to competing and thriving in the global marketplace, Torchbearer CIOs have a strong focus on continuous technology improvements to not only drive efficiencies (e.g. savings achieved by leveraging cloud solutions), but also to provide insight and foresight, which requires leveraging technologies like cloud computing and cognitive computing (e.g., IBM Watson).
Like the rest of the C-Suite, CIOs know the pressure to provide better analytics. However, such analytics aren’t just limited to sales and marketing trends and results. Even IT can benefit from better insights into how current technology is or isn’t enabling the business to be more competitive. The question is, how are CIOs going to implement this agility, this capability to continuously adapt to change, and drive better performance and (technology) investment decisions. CIOs should look for an integration and automation partner entity that supports multiple platforms and ecosystems, supports automation, and that can provide the invaluable analytics needed to monitor service levels and drive improvements.