CIOs are recognised by business leaders as more important than ever in gaining competitive advantage, a survey has revealed.
Particularly, their role in generating new ways to communicate with customers and employees (69%) and improving the customer experience (67%) makes them integral to boardroom strategy, the study of 550 business decision makers found.
The new data, which was compiled by SunGard Availability Services across the UK, France, Sweden and Ireland, highlights the rise in confidence toward CIOs as catalysts for new revenue opportunities.
But with 97% of respondents believing that aligning their initiatives with the IT department’s capability will yield some form of competitive advantage, CIOs today face mounting pressure to support new areas of growth while balancing ever-changing business needs.
They will, however, be safe in the knowledge they have the backing of their bosses, with 95% believing their CIO has the capability to achieve that strategic support.
The barriers that do hold CIOs back from having a more strategic function relate heavily to bandwidth, with the weight of everyday activity (46%) and a lack of the necessary resources (51%) cited as the top reasons in the study.
The research also pointed to how cross-departmental co-operation is key to effectively tackling those separate but sizeable challenges. 40% said the IT department and senior management team should work very closely together to deliver business growth and enterprise availability, and while 42% believed a healthy distance between the two should exist for a competitive advantage to truly exist, just 3% of UK correspondents said this means not working with the CIO at all.
Looking at their internal relationships within the organisation, 61% of UK respondents suggested they work closely with the CIO and their team because they are helpful in realising their department’s ideas 58% said they are an integral part of their team (58%), and 55% said they are open to new ideas.
>See also: Boardroom matters – CIO interview
“Historically IT has had a tricky relationship with the rest of the business,” said Joe Peppard, professor at the European School of Management and Technology. “It’s often referred to as a troubled marriage, but in many cases it’s not the technology that’s the problem, but a perception that it doesn’t deliver, is inflexible and drains resources.
“Organisations can overcome these barriers by having the CIO lead from the front as long as he or she is seen as a legitimate business leader.”
Perhaps surprisingly, more CIOs report into the CEO (42%) and COO (27%) than the CFO (26%), according to the survey.
“As companies position themselves for growth, the CIO can become burdened with the task of everyday activities that focus on keeping the lights on rather than looking at ways to strategically support the business,” said Keith Tilley, executive VP, EMEA & APAC, SunGard Availability Services.
“Here is where a trusted technology partner can offer real assistance, and business leaders recognise this. In the UK over half cite an external partner as helpful in managing change initiatives (56%), responding to new demand patterns (55%) and enabling greater business agility and competitiveness (55%), as companies look to capitalise on the opportunities today’s market is providing.”