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CIOs enjoying greater business influence, finds survey

A Harvey Nash and KMPG CIO survey finds CIOs are becoming more influential in their businesses, but struggle with challenges such as skills shortages and cyber security

The role of the CIO is changing, with IT leaders reporting that their influence is growing as 57% of CIOs now sit on an executive board.

The annual Harvey Nash and KPMG CIO survey found that the number of CIOs sitting on boards or senior leadership committees has increased significantly, with 34% of CIOs reporting directly to their CEO.

CIOs are becoming increasingly influential, but their priorities are also changing. Traditional priorities such as increasing operational efficiency and delivering stable IT performance have dropped by 16% and 27% respectively.

Changing roles and priorities

Lisa Henegan, global CIO advisory service network lead at KPMG, told Computer Weekly that while traditional IT priorities were still important, new technologies and challenges have brought about a change.

“This is driving new demands on the CIO. We are seeing the evolution of a ‘creative CIO’, who is both a technology and business strategist, and a business model innovator,” she said.

“The role of the CIO is shifting from controlling to collaborating, where an increased amount of time is spent outside the control function,” she said.

The survey found that four in 10 CIOs now spend at least one day a week on tasks unrelated to IT, and 55% believe their career in the next five years will be outside IT.

“Adaptability, influencing skills and an ability to keep a clear head in uncertain times are becoming increasingly important business skills for today’s CIO”
Albert Ellis, Harvey Nash

“The focus is much broader now. CIOs are spending more time with their business colleagues and customers, and need to understand what technology can bring to the organisation, particularly centred on growth opportunities.”

Harvey Nash CEO Albert Ellis said CIOs are dealing with a bigger variety of challenges than ever before, “many of which are far away from traditional IT”.  

“Adaptability, influencing skills and an ability to keep a clear head in uncertain times are becoming increasingly important business skills for today’s CIO,” he said.

However, there will still be a role for the traditional CIO. “Whatever happens, technology still needs to run safely and securely, so there will always be a role to do that,” added Henegan.

Skills shortage

CIOs are also facing challenges, however, particularly around skills. Some 65% of the CIOs surveyed said they believed a lack of talent would prevent the organisation from keeping up with the pace of change.

Data analytics, digital and security skills are the most in demand, and Henegan said that all sectors were suffering from a skills shortage, which is the highest since the Great Recession.

Talent retention is also a concern. While 44% of CIOs were planning to grow their teams in 2016, 89% had “some” or “great” concern about keeping hold of talented staff.

Lack of cyber security skills

One of the areas where skills are lacking is in security. Worryingly, only 22% of respondents said they were confident their organisation would be able to identify and respond to a cyber attack.

“Virtually all the organisations we deal with have a lot of work to do in this area,” said Henegan. “It is concerning that less than a quarter of IT leaders feel ‘very well positioned’ to deal with IT security/cyber attacks,” KMPG UK’s CIO advisory director Adam Woodhouse said in the report.

“Only 40% of respondents cited ‘insiders’ as a significant concern, however an increasingly higher proportion of cyber incidents are originating from within the organisation. Are CIOs overlooking this threat or overestimating the threat of organised cyber criminals?”

The survey also found that the number of women in IT leadership roles had risen by a third in the past year. However, the figure was still only 9% in the UK, with the global average 11%. Norway topped the table, with women taking up 26% of leadership roles.  

Read more on CW500 and IT leadership skills