Why Canadian CIOs need to invest in digital

By Chris Howard, chief of research for Gartner’s CIO Research Group. Howard presented his CIO survey findings in Toronto at the Gartner CIO and Executive Summit on Tuesday.

Canadian CIOs are underinvesting in disruptive technologies, opting instead to focus on business-as-usual initiatives. This, combined with relatively low budget growth, is hampering Canadian CIOs and their organizations — especially when compared to their international counterparts.

As a result, they are underinvested in some of the most transformative technologies — technologies that are needed to capitalize on today’s digital momentum.

Although budget growth is essentially flat for Canada (one per cent public sector and 1.3 per cent private sector) in 2018, the numbers show that CIOs are hesitant when it comes to spending and investing in digital. This is due in large part to economic uncertainty regarding geopolitical agreements. Gartner doesn’t expect this to change throughout the year as economic anxiety continues. Despite their hesitancy, these CIOs need to move forward, rebalance and invest in transformation rather than investing in traditional legacy processes.

When it comes to their top priorities, the Gartner 2018 CIO Survey showed that Canadian CIOs and their international counterparts are looking for growth, consistency, research and development, and a more intimate relationship with the customer. Where there is a difference, and this has been true for a few years, is that Canadian CIOs are still highly focused on legacy modernization, more so than their counterparts in other parts of the world. They are very focused on ERP and CRM and continue to invest in both, leaving digital disruptors and other areas underinvested.

Despite this focus on legacy modernization, Canadian CIOs are likely more ready to move to digital than they think. Although they typically wait for a technology to become proven before investing, many of the newer technologies currently available are mature enough for real use cases. However, Canadian CIOs must first rid themselves of an investment bias that favors “business as usual” technology priorities, such as CRM, ERP, infrastructure and data centers. If they don’t, their organizations will be underinvested in the most transformative technologies.

Whether it’s the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) or 3D printing, there are real use cases that CIOs can leverage to demonstrate true value.

Chris Howard is a vice president and distinguished analyst and chief of research for Gartner’s CIO Research group.

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