CIO priorities reflect changing times, according to new report


Flexera‘s 2020 CIO Priorities Report examines how chief information officers (CIOs) are driving change in their IT organizations as they make to move to digital business. The company surveyed 302 global CIOs from its vetted panel, who are mainly from enterprises with at least 2000 employees.

While we have to bear in mind that these results came out before the COVID-19 crisis changed everything, they still present a good picture of what CIOs are thinking about, and how they plan to enact digital transformation in their companies. All data and graphics in this slideshow are from the Flexera 2020 CIO Priorities Report, and are used under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


Key findings

Four key findings came to the fore for researchers:

  • Digital transformation impacts CIO priorities
  • IT strategic alignment becomes more critical
  • CIOs face challenges in the shift to digital
  • Staffing changes to support transformation

Digital transformation impacts CIO priorities

Globally, 91 per cent of respondents expect the pace of digital transformation to accelerate in 2020, with Europe and Asia-Pacific expecting more of an increase than the Americas. The top driver everywhere: customer experience, with 69 per cent saying it’s very important. Next up was improving existing products and services, at 57 per cent, followed by new products and services and growing new markets at 53 per cent each.

However, only 36 per cent of IT organizations consider themselves very mature in the ability to deliver on customer experience.

Cloud and AI


CIOs expect heavy adoption of cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in 2020, with public cloud leading the way. And hand in hand with this will be an increase in cybersecurity focus. 83 per cent plan to increase their spending on cloud security, 47 per cent significantly. Threat intelligence (82 per cent) and data privacy (81 per cent) round out the top three priorities.

IT strategic alignment becomes more critical

The shift to digital and cloud has resulted in 36 per cent of the IT budget being invested in growth and innovation. But IT still struggles in its relationship with the business in strategic activities, with only 24 per cent reporting they are equal partners, a further 22 per cent stakeholders, while the rest are validators (21 per cent) or implementers (33 per cent). Given the adoption of business-led IT (65 per cent have heavy or moderate focus), where business units may purchase technology and pass it to IT for implementation and support, it is critical that IT act as an equal partner. A business liaison in IT who understands what the business needs can help IT provide expertise and insights so the business can make more informed decisions.


Faster cadence

While companies typically review their technology roadmaps from time to time, the research showed that the cadence is increasing, with 41 per cent globally updating their roadmaps at least monthly (almost half of this group does so weekly). Respondents in Asia-Pacific and Europe update significantly more frequently than those in the Americas.


Business outcomes

To justify their investments, IT must use metrics that resonate with the business. Top of the heap was the old standard, return on investment (ROI). The business understands that metric well because it aligns financial goals with investments. It also understands customer satisfaction. A satisfied customer will continue the relationship, an unhappy one will likely go elsewhere. And although it was at the bottom of the list, researchers pointed out that net promoter score (the likeliness that a customer will recommend a company’s products and services, which provides insights into customer satisfaction) is something respondents in IT are not as well acquainted with as people in sales and marketing, so the result may be a reflection of the fact that IT may consider it less important than it really is.

CIO challenges in the shift to digital


CIOs said that their biggest challenge in technology decision making is lack of good quality data. 89 per cent cited it as a challenge. Second and third on the list were slow implementation of decisions, and too many decisions, each mentioned by 84 per cent of respondents. This third factor echoes concerns over the accelerating cadence of revisiting roadmaps and the speed of change.

Most respondents are adopting agile development processes to help IT respond, with 74 per cent saying they have achieved at least some level of maturity.


More worries

One big worry among CIOs is the spectre of reviving the vendor lock-in woes they suffered in years past. They’re looking at the potential for lock-in by anyone from public cloud providers to software vendors (including open source) and service providers, including software-as-a-service (SaaS).

Social responsibility

As if they don’t have enough to worry about on the tech side, CIOs also have to think about social concerns. Almost half (45 per cent) of respondents said their investments in data privacy and protection would increase significantly this year, and another 39 per cent said they’d increase somewhat, not surprising given the legal and business impacts of breaches. Environmental and ethical concerns (worker protection, fair wages in developing countries, giving back) will also see increased investment, driven by a workforce whose generation wants to work for companies embracing strong social values.

Staffing changes support digital transformation

Respondents noted that only 68 per cent of their enterprise IT workers were full-time staff (54 per cent in-office, 14 per cent remote), with 13 per cent outsourced, 11 per cent contractors, and the remainder part-time or under another arrangement. They plan to adjust the ratios by upskilling and reskilling existing employees, as well as by increasing diversity in the workforce.

In a move that will be welcome to IT staff, 79 per cent said that they plan to increase their investments in training existing employees, which will not only improve skills, but can give the organization a competitive edge when looking for new talent.

Partners still have a place

Spending for external partners will increase as organizations hire systems integrators, outsourcers, managed service providers and other external partners to fill gaps in the workforce and take advantage of their special skills and expertise. The top three areas will be cloud operations, cybersecurity, and cloud migrations.

One approach, the report says, is to have the partner(s) do the planning, design, and implementation of a project, then have the partner train the internal workforce to take over ongoing management of the technology.


Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner has been interpreting tech for businesses for over 20 years and has worked in the industry as well as writing about it, giving her a unique perspective into the issues companies face. She has both IT credentials and a business degree.

Featured Download

ITW in your inbox

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

More Slideshows

Top Tech News