Digital strategy and the specter of cyber-attacks have helped to elevate the authority of IT leaders, giving many more a seat at the board table, according to the latest global research by recruitment giant Harvey Nash.
The influence of CIOs within business is at a 10-year high, with more than 60% now boasting frequent access to the main boardroom. The annual CIO survey from recruitment company Harvey Nash and KPMG paints a picture of IT leaders who have grown much closer to their business colleagues, are fulfilled in their profession but are embattled by acute skills shortages and cyber-threats.
Reflecting the C-suite’s increased awareness of the pivotal role that IT plays in business success, more than two-thirds of the 4,500 respondents from around the globe said they sat in board meetings in the last quarter, most commonly to discuss IT strategy and major technology investments. Perhaps surprisingly, cybersecurity came further down the agenda, suggesting that these high-level conversations haven’t yet translated into preparedness.
Only a fifth of respondents feel their organization is currently well positioned to deal with IT security issues. However, 45% of respondents say that plans are underway to invest more in cybersecurity, with larger organizations in particular ready to counter their greater risk with proportionally bigger investments.Innovation agenda
That reflects how digital has become core to enterprise strategy for more and more businesses. In the past two years there has been a jump in the number of organizations with a business-wide digital strategy, up from 27% to 41%. While that underlines the acceptance that digital is as much a business issue as an IT one, it isn’t without its challenges. According to the CIOs questioned, the main impediment to the successful execution of the digital agenda is ‘overcoming resistance to change,’ with 43% citing that as a barrier. Getting buy-in from all levels of business stakeholders is key to overcoming that, even though the majority of respondents maintain they already have the support of the C-suite.
When looking at the best way to foster digital innovation IT leaders believe that dedicating more of their time to innovation and partnering with organizations such as academics and innovative vendors are key (54% and 52%, respectively). However, while the number of businesses with a chief digital officer has risen from 7% to 25% over the past four years, only 12% of CIOs believe that hiring a chief innovation officer is important.Digital labor market
In many sectors, robotics and automation are often the topics of ‘innovation’ but it seems most organizations are approaching robotics with experimental caution. Only one-third of respondents said they are currently investing in ‘digital labor’ (defined as including robotic process automation and cognitive automation). However, this figure increases significantly when respondents are grouped by organizational size. Sixty-two per cent of those with larger IT budgets said they are investing in digital labor, while that was true at only 27% of small organizations.
Interestingly, while smaller organizations are often praised for their ability to be agile, fail fast and lead digital disruption, this could put larger companies at an advantage. Having the capital to invest in major technology advances could see big businesses competing effectively with their more nimble counterparts in the digital disruption stakes.Skills, spending and salaries
All IT leaders around the world were united on one subject, though: a dearth of skills. For the past four years, around 60% of respondents have said they are experiencing technology gaps within their teams. Data analysis is the most in-demand skill, named by 42% of respondents. But the fastest-growing skills shortage is around enterprise architecture — up by 26% since last year. The lack of data skills was behind the fact that ‘facilitating the use of data analytics’ was named as the area where IT organizations were least effective.
Behind such recruitment drivers are relatively healthy IT budgets. Spend on IT has remained consistent for the past five years, with eight in 10 respondents enjoying stable or growing finances. However, the business engagement in technology is changing how that is distributed. Around 40% of respondents indicated that more than 10% of their budget is now controlled by influencers outside the IT function.
Historically, this may have been seen as a challenge but the survey results imply that IT leaders are less concerned about shadow IT spend: ‘technologies controlled outside IT’ was only seen as a major challenge by 15% of respondents. It may be that as CIOs have become closer to the business they have been happy to share both budget and the responsibility for technology initiatives.
Continuing the positive theme, 82% of respondents said they find their job fulfilling. Certainly helping that will be the fact that a third of CIOs saw a pay increase in the past year — although that uplift was more evident in faster growing economies. CIOs in China, Vietnam and Poland were the most likely to receive a salary increase while IT leaders in Sweden, The Netherlands and Switzerland were least likely.
Overall, CIOs are increasingly satisfied with their roles, clearly enjoying the rise in prominence of their sector — and function — with executives right across the business now looking to their expertise to help them fulfill their departmental own goals.