The proliferation of technology among business people, coupled with specialized requirements in areas such as marketing and finance, have led to significant growth of technology budgets outside the control of IT. As a result, CIOs are in a race to redefine the role of IT in an era of digital transformation.
While this change occurs, it is important to remain clear that the perception of business benefit is a primary reference point against which IT is evaluated. In other words, corporate functions and lines of business expect IT to deliver practical and useful benefit.
Given the importance of business perceptions toward IT and the CIO, it is worthwhile to examine data on this topic. Unfortunately, the results clearly show that IT must improve its image and reputation as a provider of business value.
While looking at the data, one surprising trend emerged. Although the CIO and folks in IT view themselves positively, the self-perception of IT is still extremely low. Self-loathing in IT seems to be a reality, unfortunately.
Tech Pro Research asked technology and business people about the CIO's impact on "technological innovation and creativity." Only 20 percent of non-technology, business respondents said the CIO has a strong impact while 52 percent of CIO and CTO respondents agree.
Research from Forrester asks business leaders for customer service, product development, sales, marketing and other areas whether the CIO "accelerates their success."
The answers varied, with only 21 percent of customer service respondents agreeing; fortunately, 57 percent of people in IT agreed that the CIO accelerates their success. Of course, one wonders what the remaining 43 percent of IT people think.
[Note: this survey question asked the question negatively, so I transposed the responses.]
Different research from Forrester asks business decision makers about the perception of IT on issues such as collaboration and efficiency. The results leave plenty of room for improvement.
Gartner asks Chief Financial Officers whether they "routinely realize the benefits from IT." Only 28% percent agree or strongly agree, thus being what Gartner calls "advocates" of the CIO.
Given the CFO's role in setting budgets, it's no wonder IT is under budget pressure. If your CFO doesn't see the value of IT, your budget is going to shrink.
In the same research from Gartner, they ask CFOs whether IT is responsible for the organization's primary competitive advantage. Only 10 percent said yes.
Perhaps not a fair question, since most companies rely on the products or services they sell, as their primary source of competitive advantage. Nonetheless, this data helps further explain the internal pressure that IT faces.
What does it mean?
Three messages unfold from these reports:
The data is accurate. When multiple sources report similar numbers, you can pretty much rely on the data.
CIOs face a crisis of confidence should be concerned about the value their IT organization provides back to the business. Every CIO should regularly speak with business counterparts and ask, "How can I help?" Trust and value and intertwined.
Communication and perception do matter. IT needs to do a better job communicating successes and providing examples of partnership to the business.
The impact of digital transformation is strong across the enterprise including in IT.
Smart CIOs will get in front of this by making every effort to work closely on issues that matter to the business. Figure out their priorities and be sure you address them.