A survey from IT World Canada (ITWC) apparently shows that CIOs are preferred by their companies to shepherd the digital transformation process in part because of their knowledge of legacy systems. The fifth annual CanadianCIO Census concludes that CIOs are “able to bridge in-place technologies required to run the business, while increasingly guiding their companies on how to grow and transform the business using digital technologies.”
Going hand in hand with that notion is the survey’s finding that the rise of the chief digital officer is a myth.
There are other interesting takeaways from the survey, which was completed by 164 IT leaders, mostly CIOs, in April:
The 2017-2018 time frame is shaping up to be a growth year with nearly half of respondents expecting to add IT staff this year, and only 7 percent expecting to decrease staff. Increased IT budgets are also the trend for 2018, with 57 percent of the respondents reporting that they expect an increased IT budget. Some 11 percent expect an increase of more than 15 percent.
Although the No. 1 concern of respondents is data security/data privacy, the more significant bit of data may be that the third-highest concern is business innovation, which rose significantly in priority over last year’s survey. Canadian CIOs also seem less enthralled with some of the latest technologies that some of their U.S. counterparts ballyhoo. Social media, artificial intelligence, blockchain and even internet of things rated lowest in terms of “benefits realized to date from investment” in these technologies.
The picture that emerges from the survey is a strong tension between opposing forces faced by IT executives. Cloud services, though heavily embraced and widely successful, still haven’t brought down the price of keeping the lights on sufficiently to divert enough IT budget to digital transformation and business innovation projects. The transition of funding toward digital business is inevitable in some companies, and senior IT leaders need to avoid being run over by that freight train. If IT budgets grow year over year, investment in digital transformation should be stepped up significantly, too. Find ways to automate processes that were more labor-intensive before.
Although the survey finds that the CIO is the de facto digital transformation technology leader, I’m not sure you can draw that as a hard conclusion from a survey of 164 mostly CIOs. CIOs are a logical choice for this role, assuming they possess strong technical acumen, in-depth knowledge of the systems in place and up-to-date insights on the latest tools and services at their disposal. Many CIOs have shrewdly focused on the business innovation end of things—in other words, what you can do with a digitally transformed enterprise. And in the long run, that may be the smarter position for a CIO to take.
No CIO should assume they are in the driver seat on digital transformation. On the other hand, grooming and selecting a lieutenant to execute on the digital plumbing while you plan and implement your first digital business wins may be the better approach for some CIOs.