CIOs may talk a lot about innovation and business transformation, but about 50 per cent of them are really more focused on refining business process and enhancing collaboration, according to the results of a global study of IT leaders conducted by IBM.
In “The Essential CIO,” a study based on more than 3,000 interviews with senior IT executives in 71 counties, Big Blue identified four mandates into which most CIOs are spending some or all of their time. This includes “leverage,” which is all about streamlining operations to achieve effectiveness; “expand,” where CIOs try to improve decision-making; “transform,” where supply chain improvements are given priority, and “pioneer,” the area where CIOs are blazing new trials by making sure IT contributes directly to market growth.
Louis Sousa, IT strategy lead with IBM Global Services in Canada, said the “expand” mandate was cited by almost half of respondents, whereas “pioneer” and “leverage” each took up about an eighth of the sample. About a quarter of all CIOs seemed to fit into the “transform” quadrant.
“The key thing isn’t so much that one is better than the other. They’re all good,” he said. “The key thing is to have them lined up with what the business roles are and what the business objectives are.”
Some of the mandates lean more towards certain industries, Sousa added. Chemicals and Petroleum, for example, fit into leverage because IT isn?t necessarily going to transform the business in those fields. Banks and Insurance, meanwhile, might be more focused on simplifying processes both internally and for external clients and fit into the “transform” mandate. Telecommunications, media and entertainment companies are the pioneers, in part out of necessity. As Sousa said, these are sectors where the industry is transforming dramatically, moving away from bricks and mortar or traditional approaches and improving service delivery online.
No matter what their primary mandate, Souza said the foundational pieces of running IT have to be there.
“You have to be good at delivering the services that you commit to the business,” he said. “If you can’t do that, you can’t engage the business in any of these other pieces.”
The danger is getting into a role and a mandate that the business doesn’t buy into, Sousa said. “That’s the worst possible scenario. The expectations don’t line up.”
IBM also conducts an annual CEO study, and Sousa noted that this year marks the first time the view of the CEO and CIO are identical in terms of what’s important to them: client intimacy, analytics and information and people skills. “They’ve finally lined up.”
Although Canadian CIOs made up less than five per cent of the overall survey sample, and Sousa said there were few differences from the global results, one interesting data point was around market influencers.
“Both CEOs and CIOs (in Canada) identified staff skills in the top three, whereas globally it didn’t make the top five or six,” he said.