Research: CIO relationships and priorities remain conflicted

A new global CIO study from Deloitte sheds light on why CIOs and IT have a tough time. The data offers lessons on how to fix the problem.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

New research from Deloitte sheds light on the state of CIOs today and covers several important points regarding CIO activities, relationships, and strategies. You can download the full report as a PDF here.

Deloitte claims it surveyed “over 900” CIOs; however, the data shows that 50 percent of respondents have the title CIO, 22 percent are Head of IT or IT Director, and 22 percent are “other.” The number of CIO respondents is significant either way, but maintaining a skeptical eye is always important when interpreting research.

The following graphic shows the respondent breakdown and their reporting relationships:

Deloitte CIO respondents

IT budgets and priorities. According to the research, 77 percent responded that IT budgets are growing with only 23 percent reporting that their 2014 budget declined from 2013. However, the most important IT priority in the next 12-18 months is the vague goal “support new business needs,” as shown in this graphic:

Deloitte IT priorities

“Supporting new business needs” is the motherhood and apple pie of IT, expressing a positive intention to do what the business needs. However, without more detail, such phrases provide little insight into specific actions IT must take to increase value to the business.

CIO portfolio. The survey presents more good intentions in its analysis of “key dimensions of CIO portfolio.” Here is the diagram:

Deloitte CIO key portfolio dimensions

However, a closer look at the data raises concerns about the CIO’s ability to achieve the promise of those good intentions. Although 70 percent of respondents say their organization has maturity in delivering business outcomes, only 55 percent prioritize this goal. Likewise in the next dimensions, enhancing customer experience and building a more agile IT delivery model.

In summary, these factors indicate that IT may possess an over-inflated sense of confidence when in being responsive to business needs. We see these challenges reflected in relationships with marketing, research pointing to dissatisfaction with IT performance, and the rise of shadow IT.

CIO relationships. The data shows that CIO relationships are fraught with some difficulty. Here is a graph of the data:

Deloitte CIO relationships

Only 49 percent reported their IT department is a “strong partner to the business.” Although not a high number, it demonstrates that CIOs possess insight into the reality that many IT organizations do not deliver sufficient value.

It is interesting to compare relationship importance to relationship quality, in the above diagram. We see that the CIO does not have a “very good” relationship with the CEO, CFO, or COO even though CIOs report these relationships as “very important.”

Thought and Implications

Although conventional wisdom reminds us that IT and the CIO must develop strong relationships with business leaders, these survey results indicate several relationship challenges facing the CIO.

In particular, the study raises three challenges that every CIO and IT organization should reflect on:

  • The phrase “supporting business needs” is so general as to almost be meaningless. For IT to provide optimal benefit, it must offer concrete action plans leading to definite results tied to specific business areas. The organization-wide nature of IT means it must translate specific departmental business goals into clear action steps.
  • IT metrics and KPIs do not always reflect business objectives. Great CIOs set customer satisfaction as a top priority, knowing that satisfied customers are the foundation of organizational credibility and support. Happy customers will give the CIO sufficient slack to innovate, experiment, and take risks.
  • The CIO is responsible for IT success. Although it may take months, perhaps years, to change strongly held, or negative, attitudes toward IT, that is the CIO’s job. If management refuses to support an evolving role for IT, then perhaps the CIO should consider other options.

Some IT organizations and CIOs will find these difficult truths hard to internalize and implement. CIO success ultimately requires clarity around IT goals combined with strong organizational support; it's a combination that can be elusive. Of course, that's why becoming a #Rockstar CIO is so hard!

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