The Essential CIO: The Challenges and the Opportunities

08/22/2011 08:21 am ET | Updated Oct 16, 2011
  • Linda Ban Global CIO Study Director, AIS Study Leader

One doesn't need to look further than the current day's headlines to understand how technological changes and advances are fundamentally reshaping business, government and society.

In our most recent Chief Information Officer study, "The Essential CIO" we interviewed more than 3,000 CIOs around the world to explore the challenges, opportunities and activities impacting them as they support their organizations. It comes as no surprise that all CIOs indicated they are expected to spend at least some percentage of their time on the fundamentals - managing digital infrastructure, enforcing security, data integrity and overseeing system availability. As the world becomes more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent, the expectations of CIO and their organizations are becoming much more wide ranging.

What else did CIOs share with us?

First, there is a much stronger alignment in thinking between the CIO and the CEO. CEOs and CIOs think almost identically when reviewing complexity and change and both report the environment they face is substantially more uncertain. To address these increasing levels of change and complexity and support organizational strategy, CEOs and CIOs report they are highly focused on insight and intelligence, client intimacy and people skills. To demonstrate their support for these activities and increase organizational competitiveness in the marketplace, CIOs report they are focusing on visionary activities such as business intelligence and analytics (83%), mobility solutions (74%), and cloud computing (60%). Although there are some slight differences based on geography and industry, these three activities appear at the top of the list of almost every CIO we spoke to.

Second, although these priorities span the breadth of our global sample, our study identified four distinct approaches to IT leadership, based on the primary needs of the specific needs and objectives of the organization. These "CIO Mandates" are based primarily on the business' expectation of IT:

• Leverage - streamline operations and increase organizational efficiencies
• Expand - refine business processes and enhance collaboration
• Transform - change the industry value chain through improved relationships
• Pioneer - radically innovate products, markets, and business models

The mandates are not a continuum or a progression of responsibilities and are based on the needs of the organizational at any point in time. Fifty percent of the CIOs we interviewed have an "expand" mandate, indicating that continued refinement of business processes and enhancement of collaboration (internally and externally) is a significant focus are for organizations around the world.

Third - CIOs are looking across enterprise boundaries to simplify business processes, generate real-time business insights to enable decision-making and redesign their products, services and business models. Product and service profitability analysis, master data management and social network analysis are three technology tools Transform and Pioneer CIOs report they are utilizing to understand what products and services are the best performers currently, and what may be the most profitable in the future. This data, in turn, is being used by the wider organization to make strategic decisions on product and service portfolio.

Overall, our research reiterates that the CIO is essential to the twenty-first century organization. Because of their cross organizational knowledge, CIOs are uniquely positioned to help their organizations cope with the volatility and complexity of the twenty-first century--by generating valuable insight from data and serving as catalysts for innovation.

Global CIO Study: Hear from 3,000 CIO's here.

Learn more about the "The Essential CIO" and feel free to email Linda Ban here.