CIO Census 2015: The best ways to take action on the data

Stats are just stats unless you can somehow make them useful.

Even a report as comprehensive as the CanadianCIO Census — which was sponsored by Rogers and gathered responses from close to 150 technology executives from across the country — won’t matter if IT leaders not only read it but use it as a catalyst for change.

In fact, this year’s survey showed just how critical it is that CIOs make some serious changes. Among the more dire findings, we noticed a steep drop in the number of CIOs who say they are attending executive meetings (only 37% versus 47% last year). In other words, the seat at the table is in many cases being taken away.

On the other hand, the fact that 75% of our audience believe line of business executives can help them sell their strategy into the C-Suite suggests where the solution lies. That’s one of the reasons we titled this year’s report as “The Collaboration Imperative.”

If you haven’t already downloaded the full-report, seen the infographic, or watched the highlights video, you can do so here

Once you’ve absorbed the key findings, the natural response might be “what’s next?” Though the report offers some great high-level recommendations for CIOs to follow, we’ve gathered some of the stand-out numbers from the survey and suggested free or inexpensive resources to respond to the data in a meaningful way. Consider it our thank-you gift for taking part in one of the only studies of its kind in Canada.

46%: The percentage of CIOs who told us organizational design improvements are a top priority. This has been a trend since we launched the Census, and it’s second only to security, which suggests IT leaders need some help in determining their approach.

Earlier this year, a group of consultants from Strategy& and PwC published a piece that showed eight essential building blocks that must be considered as part of the design of any company. They include Decisions, Norms, Motivators, Commitments, Information, Mindsets, Structure (how work gets divided) and Networks (how people connect).

“You may be tempted to make changes with all eight building blocks simultaneously. But too many interventions at once could interact in unexpected ways, leading to unfortunate side effects,” the authors write. “Pick a small number of changes — five at most — that you believe will deliver the greatest initial impact. Even a few changes could involve many variations. For example, the design of motivators might need to vary from one function to the next. People in sales might be more heavily influenced by monetary rewards, whereas R&D staffers might favor a career model with opportunities for self-directed projects and external collaboration and education.”

This is aimed at CEOs, but read between the lines to see areas where CIOs can offer particular value. A natural place to start might be with “Information,” which is broken down into KPIs, information flows and knowledge management systems. Technology that helps meet KPIs more effectively, for example, could be a huge win for CIOs, and fine-tuning information flows and knowledge management systems (however you define the latter) might be steps towards that.

58%: The portion of Canadian CIOs who plan to increase hosting of data. The move towards the cloud isn’t a surprise, particularly as organizations like Microsoft, Oracle and others all open up local data centres in some of our major cities. The real question now is how to ensure that hosting leads to the right business outcomes.

To that end, consider the Enterprise Cloud Maturity Model recently developed by Canada’s Cloud Best Practices Network. Published this past summer, it details a method for organizations to self-evaluate their progress across different areas of hosting and taking into account a number of opportunities, from cloud-aware applications and software-defined networks to disaster recovery-as-a-service. All of these things should be tackled with one thing top of mind:

“The critical improvement is better ‘Business IT alignment’, meaning IT increasingly becomes a strategic asset for the organization, rather than simply a back office commodity,” the author writes. “The traditionally operational CIO can also evolve to become a ‘CDO’ – Chief Digital Officer, a board level executive reporting to the CEO and proactively defining how technology can play an integral part in strategic planning, not just operational fulfillment.”

If this sounds like your own goals as CIO, the Enterprise Cloud Maturity Model could be a way of turning hosting from a tactic to a real strategy.

52%: The percentage of IT leaders who said the degree of technology outsourcing in their firm will remain constant rather than increase or decrease.

This response suggests that, for now at least, CIOs may need to spend more time managing outsourcing relationships to ensure they are achieving their full potential rather than farming out additional areas of the IT department to third parties. To do that, they are best advised to connect with those who have the most experience to share, and for the last decade there is probably no better source in Canada than the Centre for Outsourcing Research and Education (CORE). In October, for example, CORE plans to host a discussion forum on the true cost of a data breach in Canada (at a cost of $99 for non-members). The following month will be the organization’s 10th annual conference, with sessions on a wide range of areas.

“What does the future hold? – cloud robots, standardization vs. customization, multi-sourcing multiples, the cloud comes to earth and all sourcing decisions become data driven,” the agenda says. “Our featured speakers will address what is happening and what will happen in the world of outsourcing.”

78%: The portion of technology executives who said shadow IT ends up costing their firms more money than if products and services were procured through the CIO’s group.

This isn’t usually a problem CIOs can fight entirely on their own, of course. If they report into the CFO, however, there are resources that could help educate the senior leadership team on how high the stakes are. The Chartered Professional Accountants’ Association of Canada, for instance, offers an on-demand course titled ‘Shadow IT: Do You Really Know What’s Going On?

“The scope, nature and level of shadow IT risks have grown in recent years so that they are now of concern to internal and external stakeholders, including regulators,” the course outline says, outlining a program that will help financial executives understand what shadow IT is and a potential governance framework to address it? At a running time of only one hour and a cost of $49, this is a small investment to make for a potentially critical conversation the C-suite needs to have.

70%: If you believe IT has too much responsibility and not enough control, you fall in with the majority of your peers.

CIOs are probably realistic enough to know they may never strike a perfect balance between responsibility and decision-making, but authority may come from demonstrating the ability to get more done. For a good primer on this, consulting firm McKinsey recently published an in-depth look at the key traits of chief digital officers (CDOs). Whether your firm has one or not — and even if you don’t really believe in the need for such a role — some of the scenarios presented here will probably resonate.

“Getting stuff done often requires hard-nosed negotiating skills. Consider the CDO at a financial-services company who wanted to stop business units from draining IT resources on independent projects that didn’t align with the overarching strategy,” the firm writes. “The CDO worked closely with the CIO and agreed to use her new budget to fund some of his projects; she also helped him retain and motivate key people by staffing them on important digital initiatives (which also assured him visibility into what she was doing). In return, the CIO agreed to stop supporting initiatives that the CDO didn’t explicitly approve. Both won in the end, and they now have a close working relationship.”

Take this example and recast it with the CIO and another member of the leadership team and similar dynamics could apply. The trick might not be in becoming a CDO but simply acting like one.

68%: This stat reflects Census respondents who have only worked in IT. In other words, their expertise of other areas of the business may be limited by the fact they’ve never done sales, marketing or other disciplines.

Besides considering executive job shadowing programs, CIOs could consider courses that help them better understand line of business roles and collaborate with them on corporate priorities. We’ve profiled the Leaders Beyond program before, but its Advanced IT Effectiveness Program may be a starting point. Taking place over the course of four days, “a faculty of senior business executives will help you learn new approaches and gain understanding that will take you beyond technology alignment to true executive leadership attributes and perspectives,” the course outline says.

49%: Close to half of respondents do not have a formal mobile policy but are working on one. The pressure to do so will only increase, however, as mobile apps and wearable devices continue to infiltrate business environments.

Though it was first published three years ago, the Enterprise Mobility Foundation has published a policy development guidebook that looks at definition, areas of liability, consequences for failure to comply and a lot more.

“The Company Mobility Policy Guidebook is intended to equip the workforce with the most appropriate mobile devices, plans and applications to enhance their productivity and performance in the role they play,” the free PDF download says. At nearly 100 pages, this is as comprehensive as it’s likely to get.

50%: Enterprise collaboration technologies were the most commonly cited as having the biggest impact within five years. This could include a wide range of things, but speaks to the fact that the job of CIOs will increasingly be focused on helping shape the future of work.

If you haven’t already seen it, an entertaining and insightful look at enterprise collaboration is freely available on YouTube from Jacob Morgan. In a clip that runs just under an hour he compares the decision-making around enterprise collaboration to a game of chess, and advises on 12 principles business leaders can make in order to ensure they reach the outcome they’re working towards.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Shane Schick
Shane Schick
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