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Most of the numbers are what you might expect: less than 45 per cent of CIOs have a seat at the CEO’s table. Between 70 and 80 per cent of their time is spent “keeping the lights on” and line of business execs are pretty much the only ones spending more on technology. Yet the stat that jumped out at Ray Wang the most was not from his firm’s recent survey of chief information officers at all.

In a recent Webinar, Wang, analyst at Constellation Research, said that historical studies of corporate America show that since 2000, 52 per cent of the Fortune 500 have basically disappeared. They might have been swallowed up in an M&A. They might have gone bankrupt. But more than likely, they fall into the technology “laggard” category that Wang suggested could be the worst place for CIOs that want to shift from caretaker to innovator to work.

“They’re the ones say, ‘Let’s keep everything in maintenance mode. Things are good,’” said Wang, who estimated that laggards make up approximately 30 per cent of the overall market. As they seek to contribute greater value to their organization, however, CIOs must evaluate what he called the “organizational DNA” of the workplace around them and use that to determine the best strategy.

Identify Your Organizational DNA

The good news is that there are many kind of corporate culture, which most CIOs essentially know but may not have categorized explicitly. Here’s how Wang defined them:

Market leaders: These are the companies that are always asking questions, the ones who are focused less on churning out products and services and concerned with offering customers an outcome instead. “It’s about strategic differentiation,” Wang said, who said leaders tend to make up only five per cent of the market. “These are the companies that say, ‘I want to change the way I get television, or I want to change the way I get streamed information.”

Fast followers: Though they tend to get a bad rap, Wang said fast followers and laggards are worlds apart. “They may not see the need to do something disruptive, but when they do, they want to do it faster, better, cheaper, do it in a way that overtakes (market leaders),” Wang said. “It’s not being reactive and not willing to do massive change.” Instead, it’s a question of pace.”

Cautious adopters: The most Canadian-sounding of the categories, Wang said cautious adopters will be the ones to put committees together, spend three to six months studying a potential technology change, then put off making a move. “They know the problems coming but they’re not able to make disruptive changes,” he said. “Instead they’ll be optimizing the cost structure and figuring out how to be prepared when they have to be innovative.”

First of several parts. Full story in the March issue of CanadianCIO.

Image courtesy of photostock /

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