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21 January 2015 

Study reveals boardroom demand for ‘more creative’ CIOs

Boardroom

Chief information officers (CIOs) are being given greater opportunity to take a leading role in their organisations, thanks in part to the rise of ‘shadow IT’.

That’s one of the paradoxical findings of a new global study recently published by BT, based on a survey of around 1,000 senior IT decision makers in eight regions worldwide.

Other findings indicate the increasing demand from organisations for CIOs with greater creative and strategic know-how.

‘Shadow IT’ is the name given to the growing practice of departments, such as finance or marketing, buying their own IT solutions.

According to the study, ‘Art of Connecting: creativity and the modern CIO’, the practice is now common, with 76 per cent of CIOs seeing it within their organisations. On average, shadow IT now accounts for a quarter of an organisation’s IT spend.

Tightening up security

The growing confidence of departments in buying their own IT solutions is shifting the CIO’s focus away from hands-on support to a more strategic role centred on advice, governance and security. Indeed, CIOs are now spending 20 per cent more time and substantial additional budget on security as a result of shadow IT.

Despite worries about a loss of control and sizeable reductions to their overall budgets, the changes driven by shadow IT give CIOs a unique opportunity to evolve their role.

Luis Alvarez, chief executive officer, BT Global Services, said: “CIOs are perfectly placed to nurture creative uses of technology throughout their organisations while keeping a strategic view. Indeed, our research shows that the board expects nothing less.”

Great expectations

Almost six in ten respondents said that the CIO now has a much more central role in the boardroom compared with two years ago. And 68 per cent believe that their board’s expectations of them has increased substantially during the same period.

This is reflected in the types of key performance indicators (KPIs) that CIOs are now accountable for. Whereas a traditional CIO would have been judged largely on IT metrics, 81 per cent say they now own more business than technology KPIs.

Aligned to this, 64 per cent of respondents believe their board now recognises the need for a much more creative CIO, one that can operate across the organisation, orchestrating technology and skills to deliver departmental or strategic business outcomes.

It’s a change that the majority of CIOs positively embrace - with 69 per cent saying the ability to be more innovative and creative is the biggest plus of their job.

Understanding the potential

Craig Charlton, chief information officer, De Beers, said: “Creativity comes from really understanding your business issues, really understanding technology and being able to put those two things together. It’s the fusion of a pressing business problem with a good command of what technology can do that leads to great ideas. And without creativity, you will end up with a role focused on transactional services and traditional IT, rather than looking to the future.”

CIOs view mobility (73 per cent), unified communications (72 per cent) and cloud (71 per cent) as the technologies that can most help in unlocking their creativity. And in a win-win, these are also identified as being most critical to delivering commercial results.

Creativity pays dividends

So the more CIOs are creative in their use of mobility, cloud and unified communications, the more likely they are to meet the expectations of their board.

Luis Alvarez said: “I’ve been a CIO and to me it feels as if we’re on the verge of a renaissance of the profession with greater opportunities than ever before. In this new environment, CIOs who can adopt a creative, imaginative and visionary mind-set, and look more to their IT partners for innovation and fresh thinking, will thrive."