Compliance a CIO's priority but not for peers

Regulatory compliance ranks high on the agenda of technology heads, but not necessarily so for the rest of top management, a new survey has found.

Regulatory compliance may sit high on CIOs' agendas, but not necessarily so for the rest of top management, a survey has found.

Released Wednesday by business school, Insead, the IBM-commissioned poll of some 160 Asean CIOs revealed a mismatch between the perception of regulatory compliance's importance held by CIOs, compared to that of the rest of the C-suite.

Regulatory compliance was ranked as high-performance for the majority of CIOs: 75.3 percent said it was an area where IT has been creating business value for the organization. However, Insead said compliance was not viewed as one of top three operational priorities for the rest of the management executives.

All the same, the study showed business alignment was of great importance to the CIOs. The proportion of CIOs in the region who attach importance to promoting collaboration between IT and the rest of the business stood at a high 93 percent, which matches global statistics, according to Insead.

In fact, 88 percent felt they were valued members of the senior management team--higher than that compared to a 2007 global study, where a lower 80 percent of CIOs felt this way.

Furthermore, the study said the emphasis on IT and business collaboration was found to be trickling down through the organization. Of the respondents, 54 percent believed their IT employees were well equipped to communicate in business terms.

Harvey Koeppel, executive director of the Center for CIO Leadership, said CIOs should continue to work within their teams and the rest of management to connect business and IT objectives. "It's easier to hire someone who can keep the infrastructure going than finding someone who can translate business goals into IT," he said.

'Proving' themselves still a priority
However, the study found more Asean CIOs preoccupied with "delivery-focused" activities such as managing change and showing resourcefulness, compared with global counterparts who emphasized "outward-focused" and "influence-oriented" qualities such as influence, leadership and power.

"Asean CIOs are highly conscious of the need to 'prove' themselves," said the study, where almost half of the respondents ranked the task of persuading senior leadership of the value of IT as "extremely important". Comparably, 19 percent of CIOs worldwide said this.

"The findings...show a pronounced need not only to participate in top management discussions but to be seen as participating and contributing," said the study.

Bruno Lanvin, executive director of Insead's eLab, said at a media briefing: "The day to day reality of 'keeping the lights on'--the role of a traditional CIO--is still something to worry about for CIOs in this region."

He said that this concern is coupled with aspirations of integrating more tightly with the rest of the senior management tier.

But the line between IT and business will continue to blur, thanks to the rising of young, tech-savvy executives, noted Lanvin. With new blood coming to the workforce that is accustomed to technology, adapting the culture to embrace technology is one thing off the CIO's plate, he said.

Similarly, having to educate more business executives who are taking up a CIO role on technology, too, will be an easier task, he added.

"The stereotype of business and IT being separate will go away with these trends," said Lanvin.

While CIOs in all the countries saw their roles as mainly ensuring "technological excellence", one country stood out--Vietnam showed a markedly different perception of a CIO's role, where its respondents reported leadership as the highest-rated area of CIO performance.

According to Insead, this could be attributed to the higher proportion of state-owned enterprises in Vietnam, where the CIOs "shared a strong perception of (and rated highly) their organizations' performance in leadership areas such as strategy, governance and employee capability".

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