Podcast: CIOs must upskill or risk being bypassed

As IT leaders are increasingly required to focus on commercial aspects of the business, many feel they do not have the sufficient skills to perform their roles, according to a global CIO survey.

As IT leaders are increasingly required to focus on commercial aspects of the business, many feel they do not have the sufficient skills to perform their roles, according to a global CIO survey.

The study, carried out by recruitment firm Harvey Nash and advisory firm PA Consulting, surveyed 2,655 CIOs worldwide, and the results illustrate the scale of the challenges that lie ahead for IT decision-makers.

According to the study, CIOs will need to rise to the challenge of being efficient in order to innovate and be more commercially-minded if they are to adapt to the post-recession world and understand how to exploit new technologies in a multi-sourced environment.

Talking the talk

Communication and influencing ability is crucial to being able to do their jobs, say to 81% of the CIOs surveyed, while leadership skill is central to 76% and strategy and planning skills are essential for 57%. But only 28% feel that they have the necessary expertise.

"There is a real feeling that 'we must do this', but at the same time a self-admission that only one-third of them could step up to the challenge," said PA Consulting's IT specialist, Rupert Chapman.

Chapman added that the CIO function in many businesses has been focusing on 'order-taking' rather than engaging with other departments and that dialogue has been lacking.

According to the report, the recession prompted many IT leaders to consider upskilling, with 59% believing that an MBA would improve their strategy and planning ability.

Given that most board executives have finance-related backgrounds, investing in broader education such as MBAs could come in handy in enabling CIOs to use 'boardroom language' and being able to better communicate with fellow executives, says Chapman.

Time to track ROI

Another key finding of the study is that despite general concerns about reducing spend, 28% of the leaders surveyed said return on investment (ROI) was not tracked or expected.

Technology leadership is also part of the report's headlines - just over half were planning to use tools such as cloud computing in the next year, while 34 per cent said they would use the software-as-a-service model.

"Cloud is a major game-changer, but how they use it appropriately is the real question. For CIOs, that is an opportunity and a threat: if they don't address this business model, capability such as cloud can be used directly by the business - people can just buy services with their credit card and completely bypass IT," said Chapman.

When it comes to outsourcing management, the report suggests that 90% of CIOs are spending the same or more in outsourcing and that the market has matured but this is masking some important developments.

"Offshoring has matured and the recession has encouraged a lot more people to move abroad in the past 18 months, but project management capability of both client- and supplier-side are a big concern," said head of IT outsourcing at PA Consulting, Alex Blues.

While clients still have to fully embrace the benefits of standardisation and move to a platform-based approach, they expect outsourcers to come up with new ideas, but suppliers are not coming up with many answers, according to Blues.

"For many, the ability to manage multiple suppliers is a very difficult task. Therefore, businesses should be really proactive and invest in skills in contract management, which are harder to find. It is no longer a backwater - you should put your best people to manage those contracts, not whoever is left," he added.

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Skills development and CIO hopes for career development:

  • Most CIOs worldwide believe 'soft skills' and strategic ability are essential to perform the job, but about one-third confess that they are not equipped with the right skills
  • 44% of CIOs now report to the CEO or CFO, more than any other senior executive
  • About 38% of IT leaders plan to stay in the job for an average of between two and five years
  • CIO job satisfaction globally is down by 4% this year, with 76% of those polled happy with their jobs
  • UK CIOs and CTOs are earning an average of $160,256 (£107,817), while IT directors or vice-presidents are earning $126,986, and IT managers are getting $100,581;
  • In the UK, IT professionals in these countries receive $116,667 - a larger base salary than their IT managers - suggesting that these professionals include a greater percentage of highly paid technology consultants.

Source: Harvey Nash & PA Consulting CIO survey 2010

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