A study conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) revealed that the influence of CEOs on business strategy and operations is increasing with the spread of technology in the companies surveyed. When asked which other C-Suite members will be most important over the next few years, the CEOs surveyed named CIOs (CIOs and CTOs) more than twice the rate of CMOs, CHROs, or any other position except for CFOs and COOs.
The study also revealed critical challenges CIOs face and recommendations to help overcome those challenges and drive agility, innovation, and growth for their organizations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for artificial intelligence and hybrid cloud applications to support business-critical operations,” said Catherine Guarini, IBM CIO.
“In the post-pandemic era, the role of technology has never been more important, and it is up to CIOs to influence strategy, break down internal silos, and drive resilience and innovation in every part of the business.”
CIOs drive digital transformation with a focus on AI, hybrid cloud, and sustainability
While CIOs continue to provide essential IT services that support day-to-day business operations, they are also often expected to help drive innovation and business growth.
Several CIOs surveyed emphasized the importance of data and automation to break down silos and create new value streams. The number of surveyed CIOs reporting high maturity in their AI-enabled workflows has increased 560% compared to the past two years, and 37% of surveyed CEOs cited process automation as the best opportunity to make a positive impact within their organizations. Survey respondents indicated that the largest use of automation is in information technology, finance, and manufacturing – at 40%, 35%, and 35% of workloads, respectively.
Hybrid cloud is the mainstay of intelligent AI-powered workflows. The number of surveyed CIOs reporting high maturity in their hybrid cloud operations increased 700% compared to 2019. The recent IBV study on cloud transformation provides more information on how the hybrid cloud is becoming the dominant IT architecture.
Many CIOs are also looking to use technology to drive progress against company goals such as sustainability. 42% of CEOs surveyed expect technology to have a significant impact on sustainability in the next three years – the highest of all impact areas.
CIOs and CIOs may work at intersecting purposes in the drive for business value
Increasingly, many CIOs act as a bridge across other business functions, connecting the dots to balance and rearrange technology resources and capabilities to drive flexibility and efficiency. Within the walls of the technology job itself, though, only 4 in 10 CIOs surveyed reported that they interact frequently with senior executives, despite the fact that effective collaboration can lead to financial benefits.
The consequences of this disconnect can be significant – if CEOs and CIOs are using data and AI for different use cases without coordinating across culture, processes, and tools, the organization may lack a cross-company vision and the ability to properly control critical data.
CIOs may underestimate the challenge of a continuous hybrid workplace
83% of CIOs surveyed said they have implemented remote work strategies, but only 23% expect changes to remote workplaces from the COVID-19 pandemic to become permanent.
In contrast, 65% of employees surveyed reported that they would prefer working exclusively remotely or in a hybrid model, if given the choice.
These findings may indicate a potential blind spot for CIOs if employees’ preferences for flexible schedules and work locations do not disappear. In this “big resignation” period, the CIO’s ability to embrace effective technology applications and workforce-productive collaboration strategies can make all the difference in the war for talent.
The study includes recommendations for leaders, including:
- Adopting an open hybrid cloud approach and AI technology to help drive enterprise speed, innovation, and growth.
- Bridging the gap with the Chief Technology Officer to expand the impact of technology leadership.
- Seize the opportunity to lead organizational strategy around the hybrid workplace.