Execs Say New ‘Digital’ Tech Tops The Priority List This Year
January 28, 2013 Jenny Thomas
A new year brings a new opportunity to look ahead at what we want to accomplish in the next 12 months. In the world of IT, there are always fires to put out and systems to maintain, but according to a recent survey by the analysts at Gartner, 2013 needs to be the year when CIOs take control of digital technologies such as mobile devices and applications, analytics, big data, social media, and the cloud.
The survey was conducted in the fourth quarter in 2012 and included 2,053 CIOs representing more than $230 billion in CIO IT budgets and covering 36 industries in 41 countries. The goal was to examine business priorities and CIO strategies for the coming year, and Gartner analysts came away with some good advice for CIOs about bringing innovation back into IT departments worldwide, which is detailed in the Gartner Executive Programs report, Hunting and Harvesting in a Digital World: The 2013 CIO Agenda.
To be fair, the survey showed that CIO IT budgets have been flat to negative ever since the dot-com bust of 2002. It’s certainly difficult to be innovative when you’re just trying to stay in business. Survey respondents also indicated that CIO IT budgets are projected to be slightly down in 2013, with a weighted global average decline of 0.5 percent, which handcuffs CIOs from making sweeping technology changes within IT departments.
The dilemma comes in when we start talking about new digital technologies, and it looks like Gartner tried to gussy up its annual CIO priority list by using the word “digital” all over the place. Which is silly. I mean, VPDPs and then CIOs have been dealing with digital technologies for nearly five decades, so what Gartner really means is taking control of new digital technologies. And that, of course, has been the same job that these people have been doing all along, regardless of their title and regardless of what we call the technology. Of course the new technologies are the new priorities. Don’t try to make such a big deal about it, and just tell us what they are.
It is not news that getting up to speed with the demands of the consumer technology is a necessary step to keeping your business in the game. Things like mobile devices and their apps, big data and analytics that drive those apps and analyze user behavior as well as serving up advertising and other services to those users, and cloud computing where a lot of these applications increasingly run have reached a tipping point with business executives in the last 18 months, according to the Gartner gurus. In today’s digital environment, businesses have no choice but to deploy these technologies in the enterprise. To thrive, IT strategies, priorities, and plans must evolve beyond tending to the usual concerns, which will not be an easy task with no money in the till.
Compounding the issue is Gartner’s finding that enterprises realize on average only 43 percent of technology’s business potential, a number that must grow for IT to remain relevant in an increasingly digital world.
“Digital technologies provide a platform to achieve results, but only if CIOs adopt new roles and behaviors to find digital value,” said Mark McDonald, group vice president and Gartner Fellow. “CIOs require a new agenda that incorporates hunting for new digital innovations and opportunities, and harvesting value from products, services, and operations.”
McDonald expressed concerned that about half of CIOs surveyed do not see IT’s enterprise role changing over the next three years. “Without change, CIOs and IT consign themselves to tending a garden of legacy assets and responsibilities,” he said.
When asked which digital technologies would be most disruptive, 70 percent of CIOs surveyed cited mobile technologies, followed by big data/analytics at 55 percent, social media at 54 percent, and public cloud at 51 percent. The disruptiveness of each of these technologies is real, but CIOs see their greatest disruptive power coming in combination, rather than in isolation.
Gartner analysts believe more CIOs will find themselves leading in areas outside of traditional IT. The survey found that 67 percent of CIOs have significant leadership responsibilities outside of IT. This revelation contrasts sharply with Gartner’s 2008 results, when almost half of CIOs had no responsibilities outside of IT. Almost one-fifth of the responding CIOs said they also act as their enterprise’s chief digital officer, leading digital commerce and channels.
Dave Aron, vice president and Gartner Fellow, said it is vital that IT leaders embrace digital technologies, no matter how disruptive it might be. “IT cannot expect to secure additional funding without assuming new responsibilities or producing new results,” said Aron. “Reacting to limited budgets by restructuring costs, outsourcing and doing more with less made sense from 2002 to 2011. CIOs need to make the case that mainstream emerging mobile, big data, social, and cloud technologies justify revisiting IT budget and investment levels.”
It seems like CIOs do get this message, as in addition to the discussion on digital technologies, the Gartner survey asked respondents to rank their top 10 technology priorities for 2013, and the items that respondents said make them squeamish all ranked at high on their list:
Survey respondents also listed their top 10 business priorities for the coming year, which resulted in a predictable list:
More-detailed analysis on the CIO agenda for 2013 will be presented in two complimentary webinars, which will outline the results from the 2013 CIO agenda survey and the top business and technology priorities for CIOs. The first webinar, Agenda 2013–Implications for High-Tech Providers will be hosted on February 5 at 11 a.m. EST. The second webinar, New Priorities, Technologies and Leaders Shaping the Future of IT will be held on February 21 at 10 a.m. EST.