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More CEOs than IT chiefs view IT as competitive driver for business

James Rogers
Chief information officers (CIOs) are much less likely to see IT as a source of competitive advantage than top-level boardroom executives, according to a recent study from technology market research consultancy firm Winmark.

The research, which was commissioned by change management software specialist Serena, found that only 17% of CIOs saw the dominant role of IT as being a source of unique competitive advantage, compared with 38% of chief executives.

Philip Carnelley, software research director of analyst firm Ovum, believes that CIOs should exploit chief executives' growing belief in the business benefits of technology to develop their IT strategies.

"CIOs have got to go to their chief executives and explain how they can bring advantage - and then defend their IT empires," he said. If chief executives understand that IT can bring competitive advantage this is the time to build on that, he added.

John Jeffcock, managing director of Winmark, believes that IT departments could also benefit by acquiring greater clout within their organisations.

"If chief executives want their IT departments to offer them competitive advantage they need to be able to offer greater influence," he said.

But CIOs must be willing to meet this challenge head-on. "CIOs need to make sure they grab this influence and seize the day," Jeffcock said.

The study revealed a degree of consensus on the importance of technology within both the boardroom and the IT department.

About 38% of chief executives and 41% of CIOs surveyed felt the dominant role of IT is in critical business support, such as providing the backbone for customer-facing transactions.

The research, which was conducted among 241 CIOs and 35 chief executives, also revealed that chief executives suffer more sleepless nights as a result of IT than CIOs, with 31% and 22% respectively listing IT issues as a key anxiety. Concerns about cash flow and finance were identified as a major worry by both groups, with 48% of chief executives and 36% of CIOs saying that worrying about this kept them awake at night.

According to the CIOs surveyed, large UK companies run an average of 48.6 IT projects per year at an average value per project of £775,727. These figures suggest that the average total value of IT projects per company is £37.7m a year.

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