Business intelligence, mobility, cloud top CIO priorities list this year: IBM survey

Are CIOs becoming 'Chief Insight Officers'? Latest IBM research finds they see their roles shifting away from system caretakers to decision support enablers.

Is the CIO becoming the "Chief Insight Officer"?

Perusing the latest IBM study of more than 3,000 global CIOs, you may think that this may be a better title to describe what CIOs are trying to do for their organizations lately. More than ever, chief information officers feel like they're on the same page as the business, and are putting all efforts pursuing strategies intended to improve the quality of decision-making within their businesses.

Here are technology areas CIOs in the study say they are now emphasizing, with a comparison to the previous survey from two years ago. Note the pops in mobility and cloud; and a surprising flatline for social networking:

2009 2011
Business intelligence/analytics 83% 83%
Mobility solutions 68% 74%
Virtualization 75% 68%
Cloud computing 33% 60%
Business process management 64% 60%
Risk management/compliance 71% 58%
Self-service portals 66% 57%
Collaboration/social networking 54% 55%
Source: IBM study: The Essential CIO: Insights from the Global Chief Information Officer Study

The study brings all these elements together to demonstrate how CIOs see their role with the business increasing:

"CIOs are now increasingly in step with CEOs’ top priorities. One priority they agree on is how critical it is for today’s public and private sector organizations to derive insight from the huge volumes of data being amassed across the enterprise, and turn those insights into competitive advantage with tangible business benefits."

The study observes that CIOs everywhere spend at least a portion of their time on the IT fundamentals: setting standards, determining architectures, selecting vendors, and enforcing security, data integrity and system availability. But they also see their roles expanding well beyond that of systems caretakers. For example, 72% are focusing on helping to drive better real-time decisions, and 71% are committed to helping their business users take better advantage of analytics.

The study also makes the connection between integration and business success, pointing out that those companies that focus on these areas are more likely to be among the group of "outperformers." Sixty-one percent of companies in the outperforming group, for example, are concentrating their efforts on "integration of business and technology for innovation," versus 29% of the underperformers.

Likewise, the distinction is evident among those companies engaged in collaboration initiatives -- for example, employing wikis, blogs, file repositories, event calendars, discussion boards, image and video galleries, collaboration spaces and others.  Seventy-one percent of the outperforming companies actively support such initiatives, versus 49% of the underperformers.

Cloud computing also ranks higher on CIO's lists of priorities this year, versus the previous 2009 survey. In this year's research, 60% of organizations see cloud computing over the next five years as a means of growing their businesses and achieving competitive advantage. In 2009, only 33% viewed cloud as a viable growth agent. Not clear is whether they are talking about public cloud, private cloud, or both.

The IBM study connects the dots here as well between the number-one business driver, analytics, and cloud engagements, seen more as a tactical cost-saving move. Cloud is more than that, the study says, observing that cloud is seen as the enabler for business intelligence and analytics:

“As demand for ever-growing amounts of information continues to increase, companies are seeking simple and direct access to data and applications that cloud computing delivers in a cost-efficient, always-available manner. The use of cloud, which began in supporting deployments mainly inside companies, has now also grown common between organizations and their partners and customers.”

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