What the statistics in SIM’s 2016 IT Trends Study fail to tell you about CIOs

Agility and credibility don’t seem like attributes that should compete with velocity, but they represent two of the new entrants on a list of CIO concerns in the 36th annual research report from the Society of Information Management.

Based on responses from 785 organizations with total revenues of nearly $5 trillion and $250 billion in 2015 IT spending, the results of SIM’s 2016 IT Trends Study were released earlier this week as a precursor to SIMposium 2015, the IT executive-driven leadership conference held this year in Charlotte, North Carolina from Nov. 1-3.

Besides noting a “high demand for architects, analysts, designers and others who are able to bridge the communication chasm between IT and the business,” here’s an excerpt that brings together some of the key findings from the research:

CIOs are now spending double their time on business priorities, strategy and architecture (from 8.1% in 2014 to 16.2% in 2015). This is where CIOs spend most of their time, followed by forming IT strategy (11.9%) and IT operations (8.0%). Further, the most common measures of CIO performance are IT’s contribution to business strategy (35.5%); availability/up-time (34%); IT user/ customer satisfaction (31.9%), satisfaction of the customers of the business (30.3%); and value of IT to the business (29.6%).

I’m not sure if SIM has any chapters and members in Canada anymore (I only see U.S. ones on its web site), but it’s likely the statistics would reflect sentiments of local IT leaders as well as their international peers. That said, I had to laugh at a post on Forbes from Steve Andriole, who went through the top 10 CIO concerns one by one and basically suggested there is absolutely nothing here that should surprise anyone:

CIOs need to stop being “concerned” about the same things year after year. There are steps that companies can take to exploit the incredible business technology trends and efficiencies we’ve seen over the past ten years. The focus should be on business technology integration, not “alignment” or whining about how hard it is to define the ‘business value of IT.’

I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I do agree that the SIM study shows how getting to the heart of how CIOs are evolving may require more than mere numbers. For example, it’s great that IT leaders are spending twice as much time on business priorities vs. IT operations, but what does that really look like? Does it mean they’re sitting in boardrooms, discussing goals with the CEO and other members of the leadership team? How does that affect the work they need to delegate to IT department staff, or does it mean they’re more reliant on managed service providers, outsourcers and cloud-based products? If they measure their performance based on contribution to business strategy, how does the calculation work?

These questions can only really be answered by qualitative, representative stories from individual CIOs. The results won’t give you a hard number that’s easy to scan online or put into an infographic. But if IT leaders are to learn from one another — which is surely the point of the SIM study, those from Gartner or IDC and even our own CIO Census — they will have to provide more stories, rather than simply clicking on a multiple-choice form. It’s not that the numbers lie. It’s just that, in terms of charting the transition of CIO leadership techniques, they’re not providing the whole truth.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Shane Schick
Shane Schickhttp://shaneschick.com
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