CIOs have rarely had a better opportunity to demonstrate the critical role of IT in business success, but never have boardrooms been more aware that they have other options for its delivery.
"The role of IT in 2010, if used to its maximum potential, is going to be essential in helping organisations, in the public and private sectors, both compete effectively in a very competitive market and deliver the important cost savings that everyone is looking for in the current economic situation," says David Clarke, chief executive of the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.
"Can you do both? Yes, if you apply IT to its maximum. Will everyone be able to do that? No, not everyone is geared up to do this yet, but nothing will be more important in 2010."
IT governance has taken on a new significance over the past couple of years. Nick Kirkland, chief executive of IT leadership networking group CIO Connect, says, "Without radical action, the required rate of change will exceed the ability to deliver, including a clear focus on what is important and the need to drop anything that is not crucial. Clear governance is a necessity in that world - crisp decision-making, with delegated authority, and a focus on ROI, is critical. To reach such a point, CIOs need to demonstrate leadership across the business and within their own teams."
Proving the value of IT is essential, says Behenna. "CIOs need to develop the infrastructure and methodology that allows them to measure the true value of IT."
And benchmarking the quality of IT service delivery will become an increasingly important tool.
"CIOs need IT budget benchmarks to defend their budget levels, to determine whether more cuts are in order, and/or to build the case for increased IT spending," says Sharyn Leaver, CIO research director at analyst Forrester Research.
IT leaders need to manage the disparate skills base they have across all sources, while also motivating and developing employees that have been hit financially and emotionally by cutbacks and redundancies among colleagues.
"I need to find ways to motivate and excite my teams in light of pay freezes, headcount reductions and spending constraints, encouraging them still further to see themselves as an intrinsic and revenue-generating entity who will share in the future prosperity of the group," says Alastair Behenna, CIO at recruitment firm Harvey Nash.