Why CIOs are no longer limited to the IT department

Why CIOs are no longer limited to the IT department

Simon Leather, Head of Connectivity Portfolio

Simon Leather, Head of Connectivity Portfolio

In today's environment, your business needs to be able to adapt to new digital ways of working. This means that the role of IT managers must also adjust.

In previous years, chief information officers (CIOs) may have found their activities confined to the management of the IT department, whereas now they will be expected to play a more active role in the direction and strategy of the business.

A changing role

The changing nature of the CIO role was among the key points to emerge from IDG's recent State of the CIO Survey 2017, which found 87 per cent of executives believe their role has become more challenging.

One significant change is that CIOs now spend less of their time on day-to-day, functional operations and instead have a much greater role to play in strategic and transformational activities.

In 2015 IT executives split their time equally between functional and strategic activities, devoting 27 per cent of their time to each. But in 2016 the percentage of time spent on functional operations dropped to 20 per cent, while strategic activities increased to 31 per cent. Over the same period transformational activity time also rose, from 45 per cent to 50 per cent.

The research indicates that CIOs are being increasingly recognised by companies for the role they can play in defining and helping achieve strategic change. At a time when digital transformation is likely to be the key to success for businesses across all industries, it makes sense to put the IT department at the heart of this.

CIOs under pressure

One consequence of this for CIOs is that they will feel under pressure to juggle these additional demands with the requirements of their day-to-day work. IDG's survey found 72 per cent of executives admitted it is a struggle to handle the demands of business innovation alongside efforts to improve their overall performance.

As well as this, the growing importance of technology to overall strategy means CIOs will have to find people with the right skills to achieve these business goals, and this is proving a major challenge. Six out of ten respondents expect to experience skills shortages in their department in the next 12 months, up from 49 per cent in 2016.

The biggest areas of concern are finding people with big data and data science skills (38 per cent), security and risk management personnel (30 per cent) application developers (19 per cent).

What it means for the future

Ultimately, what the survey shows is that IT managers and CIOs are likely to have much more influence in strategic decision-making in the coming years. Therefore, you need to be prepared for an environment where the IT department is no longer treated as a sideline or a necessary cost-centre, but one that it as the heart of how the business functions.

As more board-level executives recognise this, CIOs can expect to have more demands placed on their time, because enterprises that don't place importance on the IT department will struggle to complete.

Kevin Vasconi, executive vice-president and CIO at Domino's Pizza, commented on the study: "The role of the CIO is changing, and it's a good thing.

"It still amazes me that some CIOs don't report into the C-suite and are buried in another part of the organisation. That says to me that technology is not strategic to that organisation, because if it was, the CIO would have a seat at the table."

With the role of CIOs and IT departments changing, TalkTalk Business is able to help deliver the support you need and become an extension of your team. You will have access to our team of specialists who can help design and review your infrastructure for now and the future.

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