CIOs More Focused on Business Than Ever

By Allen Bernard

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In case you missed these past few years, the job of the CIO has been morphing from top technical propeller head to a that of true corporate leader. Beginning with the dot-com era and continuing through today, the job has arguably changed more rapidly than any other in corporate America. Once just an order taker, CIOs are now spending most of their time figuring out how to leverage technology for business advantage as opposed to just keeping the lights on.

A new global study of more than 2,500 CIOs, released by IBM on Thursday, support this conclusion.

“Clearly the role of the CIO is changing dramatically,” said Pat Toole, IBM’s CIO, in a statement. “On the one hand they are trying to standardize routine processes and simplify their existing IT infrastructure to reduce costs, hence their growing interest in technologies such as Cloud computing. On the other hand, given the central role that today’s CIO performs in driving new business models, whether it’s a Smart Grid system, an Intelligent Transport system, or a transparent food supply chain, it’s not surprising that the amount of time they are now spending on driving new kinds of growth for their companies is growing considerably.”

To do this CIOs are leveraging analytics to gain a competitive advantage and improve business decision-making. In fact, this is now the top priority for CIOs. More than four out of five (83%) survey respondents identified business intelligence and analytics—the ability to see patterns in vast amounts of data and extract actionable insights—as the way they will enhance their organizations’ competitiveness.

These results and other insights are detailed in the just-released Global CIO Study 2009, which is the largest face-to-face survey of CIOs ever conducted. The study, titled The New Voice of the CIO,  represents the insights and vision of CIOs from 78 countries, 19 industries, and organizations of every size. The study reinforces the increasingly strategic role that CIOs are playing as visionary leaders and as drivers of innovation and financial growth.

Along with the increased focus on data analytics, the survey also revealed that data reliability and security have emerged as increasingly urgent concerns, with 71% of CIOs planning to make additional investments in risk management and compliance.

Other key findings of the survey include:

“There really is a ground swell on how their role is evolving,” said Linda Ban, director of 2009 CIO study program. “It’s no longer enough for them to be considered the consummate IT professional in the company. They’ve got to understand the company, they’ve got to understand where the company is moving and what the issues are and how they help make that happen.”

As the role of the CIO itself transforms so do the types of projects they lead across their enterprises, which will allow CIOs to focus less time and resources on running internal infrastructure and more time helping their companies grow revenue. CIOs are transforming their infrastructure to focus more on innovation and business value rather than simply running IT.

Top Projects

In the study, CIOs also identified the top visionary projects that they are working on now or foresee implementing in the future, ranging from process improvement to taking advantage of technologies that can provide immediate and long-term financial impact. These include:

Business intelligence and analytics, Virtualization, Green IT, Service oriented architectures (SOA), Service management, and Cloud computing.

CIOs are also focusing on mobility solutions and unified communications, collaboration and social networking tools, and Web 2.0 projects, to enable more effective communications for employees, customers, and partners.

“You can see that they are really a combination of business and technology so at any given point in time in the morning they may be focused on (technology) and in the in afternoon they may be working on a five year plan for the business,” said Ban. “So, they wear many hats during the day, they change roles on a regular basis, and whatever comes up will be what they have to focus on.”

About the Study

The 2009 CIO Study is part of the IBM C-Suite Study Series. Published by the IBM Institute for Business Value, the C-Suite Study Series publishes in-depth studies for CEOs, CFOs, Chief Human Resource Officers and most recently, Chief Supply Chain Officers. The CIO Study included 2,598 face-to-face interviews conducted over four months from January to April 2009. In addition to the detailed personal feedback, IBM also incorporated financial metrics and detailed statistical analysis into the findings.