70pc of CIOs are positive about business outlook

20 Jan 2010

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While the vast majority of CIOs are positive about the business outlook for 2010, they remain troubled over issues like business transformation, governance and cloud computing.

Despite all the talk of recession, survival and cost control, 71pc of CIOs claimed to be either fairly or very optimistic about the broader business outlook, contrasting with 19pc who remained neutral and 10pc who were fairly pessimistic, according to a survey by CIO Connect.

Agenda changes

However, it was not all optimism, as CIOs were clear that there were many challenges ahead. Two-thirds of respondents said that business transformation had moved up their agenda (33pc strongly).

And as many as 65pc of CIOs believed that business requirements in the future will change at a pace faster than the ability of the IT team to implement them.

As a result of this fast-changing pace, 53pc also saw a growing role for “intuition” decision-making over detailed analysis in future IT planning and warned that this could only be achieved with an ever-deepening understanding of the business.

On business technology issues, governance appears to be a massive burden on CIOs. As many as 84pc of respondents believed that governance would have to become more agile, as too often today governance is rolled into audit and compliance, taking up enormous amounts of time from the CIO, their team and business colleagues.

Cloud computing technology

On cloud computing, there was a clear split in opinion on whether the technology was having a major impact on the way IT was delivered; while 40pc agreed (12pc strongly), a fifth disagreed.

CIOs in favour felt cloud computing provided a radical proposition, offering huge potential for change because of the arrival of mainstream broadband, virtualisation and remote management techniques.

Other crucial factors to the success of the cloud included the globalisation of the supply chain, a maturing offshore model and a difficult economic climate.

Interestingly, comments from respondents in smaller companies made it clear that cloud computing was something they were very ready to embrace, in the expectation of making IT a variable cost proportionate to business levels.

Finally, 78pc of respondents believed that the consumerisation of IT was having a major influence on new ways of working, bringing with it opportunities but also security threats.

CIOs as business leaders

In terms of their own role, CIOs appear to be moving away from a direct reporting line into the CEO, with 32pc reporting to their CEO, 26pc to the CFO and 24pc to the COO; last year it was 45pc, 24pc and 16pc respectively.

Alongside this change also appear some changing priorities for the CIO. Some 61pc of respondents strongly agreed that in the future they would need to do something more than structure and systems to lead IT effectively.

As many as 54pc of CIOs also appreciated that they would have to reduce their day-to-day control over the functioning of their departments to enable them to become more active in the business.

“The demand for flexibility and responsiveness is such that many of the old ways of IT management are no longer adequate,” said CIO Connect’s CEO Nick Kirkland.

“Looking forward, our CIOs are very aware of the challenges they face and in the main are addressing those challenges with optimism,” Kirkland said.

CIO Connect has called for all CIOs to take five steps today to prepare for the new world:

·      Working closely with business colleagues, look at how the organisation might change during the next five years given the macro-economic realities.

·      Assess their relationships with their peers – are CIOs considered a business leader? What could they do better? Are they seen as one of the team?

·      Review outputs with their leadership team to ensure they are preparing for the changed world. Make appropriate changes, and communicate throughout the organisation why such alteration is necessary.

·      Determine if their company’s governance is both strong enough to meet regulatory needs and flexible enough to deliver business benefit. Propose changes, and follow through the difficult challenge of getting agreement from business colleagues on how decisions are to be taken, separate from taking the decisions.

·      Define how they will actively support business innovation.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Some 40pc of CIOs strongly agreed that cloud computing was having a major impact on the way IT was delivered, a survey by CIO Connect suggests

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com