Asia CIOs urged to step up biz priorities

IT heads in Asia must start driving the business or risk being regulated to backend work, while other business leaders are put in charge of "sexy" business projects that leverage IT for growth.

SINGAPORE--If CIOs in Asia do not start thinking about how technological trends impact the business and start driving their company's business strategy, they could wind up just "babysitting" backend IT while other leaders are put in charge of the "sexy" deployments such as mobile and social technologies to generate growth.

It is a particularly dangerous time today for CIOs who refuse to accept that the enterprise landscape has fundamentally changed due to the "nexus of forces", which are cloud, social media, mobile and information, said Linda Price, Gartner's Asia-Pacific group vice president of executive programs.

These four macro technological trends will put CIOs' professional reputation in danger if they do not change their mindset and step up their stake in the company's business growth strategy, cautioned Price, who was speaking at a media briefing here Thursday.

Social media, for instance, has given rise to new responsibilities and roles such as social analytics which tap customer data to boost revenue.

The management of these strategic, "sexy" technologies can be handed over to other company leaders such as the chief marketing officer (CMO) or chief digital officer, while the CIO stays in the backoffice and is relegated to "babysitting" legacy systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), Price noted.

Wong Yuet Nan, Gartner's executive partner of executive programs in Singapore, said the onus is on CIOs to demonstrate their credibility and how IT brings business value. Otherwise those in the C-suite will continue to treat IT as the backoffice, said Wong, who was also at the briefing.

For example, business leaders would decide on acquiring a company without considering the technology integration and when they instruct the IT team to manage the integration, it would be too late for the department to give its perspective, he said.

Identical priorities between Asia, global CIOs
During the briefing, Price also presented the Asian results of the Gartner Executive Program CIO Agenda 2012. She pointed out that for the first time, business and technology priorities of Asia-based CIOs were identical with their global peers in both categories.

The research firm conducted the annual study in the fourth quarter of 2011 and the global findings were unveiled earlier this year. A total of 2,336 CIOs were interviewed, out of which 53 hailed from six Asian countries: China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Increasing enterprise growth, attracting and retaining customers, and reducing enterprise costs were the top three business priorities for Asia CIOs. As for technology priorities, the respondents pointed to analytics and business intelligence, mobile technologies, and cloud computing.

Price said the alignment between Asian and the global results was indicative of the impact of globalization as well as the maturity of the CIO role.

Dale Kutnick, senior vice president of executive programs at Gartner, said this role had evolved over past decades from pure IT management to business management with strategic use of technology.

The "most advanced CIOs have given up the responsibility of babysitting [IT] and moved more to the business side", while leveraging technological trends to acquire new products, customers and markets, Kutnick said at the briefing.

Looking ahead, the analyst said he expected little to no difference between the priorities of Asian and global CIOs. Rather than geographical regions, variations will likely be between developing and developed economies, he noted.

He explained that companies are now more global than they have ever been in the past, and many want to expand abroad if their domestic market is weakened by the economic uncertainty.

Technology also has brought about "equalization" in terms of how companies in developing countries can use IT to grow and expand their business, Kutnick said, referring to the use of mobile payments and mobile banking in such markets.

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