Canadian CIOs are much more focused on people skills as one of the top three areas that have an impact on their mandate, according to the results of a worldwide study of chief information officers published by IBM Corp. on Thursday.

Developed by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, the study represents 78 countries and 19 different industries, with responses from more than 2,500 CIOs, the company said. Although only about 125 of those participants come from Canada, the study involved hour-long discussions as well as a traditional survey, focusing on the roles and challenges of senior IT executives.

Paul Bellack, a former CIO of Hudson’s Bay Co. and Speedy Auto Glass who is now a partner and practice leader for the technology strategy unit at IBM Canada, broke out the local results. While global CIOs counted changes in business models, budgets and macroeconomic factors as the main external forces affecting them, Canadian CIOs gravitated to people skills, at 36 per cent, versus 29 per cent worldwide.

“Globalization was also not as significant,” said Bellack, noting that only 21 per cent of Canadian CIOs saw it as a major issue, versus 30 per cent of their colleagues worldwide. “CIOs here are much more focused on the staff they’re working with.”

Bellack said IBM decided to break out the findings according to the financial health of the organizations represented. CIO responses were divided into those working at high-growth companies and low-growth companies. This was based on profit before taxes, he added.

“The more successful a company is, the wider the footprint of the business-facing IT initiatives,” he said. “In the low-growth companies, the CIOs had to be much more focused on the tactical issues.”

IBM also organized its research findings by identifying three over-arching goals that were common among CIOs. These included “making innovation real,” “raising the return on investment (ROI) of IT,” and “expanding business impact.” From there, IBM characterized three different pairs of roles that are associated with achieving each goal.

CIOs that want to make innovation real, for instance, must act as insightful visionaries who have a clear view of technologies and priorities that will enhance competitiveness, but also as able pragmatists who outsource where necessary to get work done. Those focused on raising the ROI of IT have to be “savvy value calculators” as well as relentless cost-cutters. Those trying to expand the business impact of IT must be collaborative business leaders and inspiring IT managers, the report says.

The need for a more nuanced role was echoed by comments in the study from participants. “Although achieving the budget is an important performance element, it is really a check box,” says an anonymous public sector CIO. “Either you did or you didn’t.”

IBM researchers asked CIOs to name as many technologies or initiatives that form a part of their visionary plans. Among Canadian CIOs in high-growth firms, the top technologies included self-service portals at 92 per cent, virtualization at 84 per cent and business intelligence and analytics at 81 per cent. Low-growth firms followed close behind on most of these areas, but with some there were differences. Only 50 per cent of Canadian CIOs at low-growth firms are interested in SOA and Web services, compared to 81 per cent of those at high-growth firms.

Bellack said the findings ring true based on his own tenure as a CIO and the conversations he has with CIOs today.

“In some ways I feel like I could have written all this myself,” he said, “but it’s great to have the numbers to back it up.”

IBM is in discussions with IT World Canada to host an educational event which explores the findings of the CIO study in more detail.

Canadian CIOs are much more focused on people skills as one of the top three areas that have an impact on their mandate, according to the results of a worldwide study of chief information officers published by IBM Corp. on Thursday.

Developed by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, the study represents 78 countries and 19 different industries, with responses from more than 2,500 CIOs, the company said. Although only about 125 of those participants come from Canada, the study involved hour-long discussions as well as a traditional survey, focusing on the roles and challenges of senior IT executives.

Paul Bellack, a former CIO of Hudson’s Bay Co. and Speedy Auto Glass who is now a partner and practice leader for the technology strategy unit at IBM Canada, broke out the local results. While global CIOs counted changes in business models, budgets and macroeconomic factors as the main external forces affecting them, Canadian CIOs gravitated to people skills, at 36 per cent, versus 29 per cent worldwide.

“Globalization was also not as significant,” said Bellack, noting that only 21 per cent of Canadian CIOs saw it as a major issue, versus 30 per cent of their colleagues worldwide. “CIOs here are much more focused on the staff they’re working with.”

Bellack said IBM decided to break out the findings according to the financial health of the organizations represented. CIO responses were divided into those working at high-growth companies and low-growth companies. This was based on profit before taxes, he added.

“The more successful a company is, the wider the footprint of the business-facing IT initiatives,” he said. “In the low-growth companies, the CIOs had to be much more focused on the tactical issues.”

IBM also organized its research findings by identifying three over-arching goals that were common among CIOs. These included “making innovation real,” “raising the return on investment (ROI) of IT,” and “expanding business impact.” From there, IBM characterized three different pairs of roles that are associated with achieving each goal.

CIOs that want to make innovation real, for instance, must act as insightful visionaries who have a clear view of technologies and priorities that will enhance competitiveness, but also as able pragmatists who outsource where necessary to get work done. Those focused on raising the ROI of IT have to be “savvy value calculators” as well as relentless cost-cutters. Those trying to expand the business impact of IT must be collaborative business leaders and inspiring IT managers, the report says.

The need for a more nuanced role was echoed by comments in the study from participants. “Although achieving the budget is an important performance element, it is really a check box,” says an anonymous public sector CIO. “Either you did or you didn’t.”

IBM researchers asked CIOs to name as many technologies or initiatives that form a part of their visionary plans. Among Canadian CIOs in high-growth firms, the top technologies included self-service portals at 92 per cent, virtualization at 84 per cent and business intelligence and analytics at 81 per cent. Low-growth firms followed close behind on most of these areas, but with some there were differences. Only 50 per cent of Canadian CIOs at low-growth firms are interested in SOA and Web services, compared to 81 per cent of those at high-growth firms.

Bellack said the findings ring true based on his own tenure as a CIO and the conversations he has with CIOs today.

“In some ways I feel like I could have written all this myself,” he said, “but it’s great to have the numbers to back it up.”

IBM is in discussions with IT World Canada to host an educational event which explores the findings of the CIO study in more detail.