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CIO Survey 2014: Optimism, importance and skills

This article was originally published on Technology.Info.
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The results are in from this year’s CIO Survey, published by Harvey Nash, the global recruitment and offshoring group. The survey represents the views of 3,211

senior IT leaders

across more than 30 countries, and is one of the largest studies of its kind. It makes positive reading.

CIO Survey 2014 - A watershed year

Jonathan Mitchell, Harvey Nash’s Non-Executive Chairman of Global CIO practice, believes that the CIO survey 2014 results suggest that we’ll look back on 2014 as the watershed of the global financial crisis. Optimism is creeping into the views of CIOs. Budgets seem to be rising, and for the first time in a decade, CIOs are worrying about skills shortages. So what are the main findings from the survey?
First of all, CIOs are becoming increasingly important to their organisations. More than half of CIOs hold executive posts, with a seat at the ‘top table’, and 44% of organisations now report that they have a CIO, up from just 11% in 2005. This seems to be part of an ongoing trend since the financial crisis. But perhaps what’s even more crucial is the strategic focus of CIOs. A few years ago, it was all cost savings, or at best operational efficiencies. Now, most CIOs report that their focus is on growth, whether building revenue, or better engagement with customers. It’s an interesting trend that matches with Ian Cox’s work on the changing role of the CIO and IT departments (opens in new tab).

Shortage of skills at the root of many challenges

All is not totally positive, of course. Project delivery remains an issue for major business transformation projects, very few of which have been considered highly successful this year. CIOs are also increasingly concerned about skills shortages, and the impact on the organisation’s ability to keep up with the market. The skills shortage is exacerbating problems with project delivery. Nearly 60% of CIOs responding to the survey felt that this was a significant problem, 20% more than last year, and the highest level since the start of recession in 2008.
The biggest skills shortage is in project management skills, and change management skills have seen the biggest change in demand. Neither of these should come as a surprise given the issues with delivery of major transformation projects, and the challenge of transforming IT departments from supportive into strategic players. CIOs report that the skill most valued in interview candidates for leadership positions is ‘business understanding’.

The expanding scope of relationship management

Relationships with other functions also remain a challenge for many IT departments. Most have good relationships with operational departments, but struggle with marketing and HR colleagues. And this is a big issue, because in many organisations, it is the marketing function that ‘owns’ the role of Chief Digital Officer, leaving the CIO struggling to make strategic headway. Several companies reported that they have opted for a perhaps more mature, and more successful, approach to the CDO role: co-ownership between IT and marketing. This pragmatic solution allows each to play to their strengths, and should strengthen the relationships between the two functions.
In financial terms, the situation is also positive. IT departments are generally reporting budget increases. Interestingly, many more are planning to outsource infrastructure projects, up 14% on last year, and also service desks and helpdesks. It’s perhaps a sign that, as Ian Cox has predicted, IT departments are becoming more strategic, and moving towards adding customer value to the organisation.
You can request a copy of the CIO Survey 2014 directly from Harvey Nash.
View other survey and research results on Technology.Info