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Executives’ Top Message to Their CIOs: Innovate, Quickly

Posted by Frank Gens on June 30th, 2006

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In preparation for IDC’s IT Forum & Expo two weeks ago, I asked 200 business executives – including CEOs, CFOs, and a variety of business function leaders (Marketing, Sales, Operations, etc.) – a simple question: “What message would you like to send to the CIO and other senior IT leaders in your organization?”

I offered a choice of fifteen statements I often hear business executives make about their IT organizations, and allowed the executives to select as many as they liked. Here are the eight most frequently selected messages to CIOs from their most important internal customers:

Click to Enlarge

These results shouldn’t be very surprising for members of the IDC community: they align with our recent post about CEOs’ top priorities for 2006, our survey about the role of IT in the business, and our recent post about innovation in the enterprise.

The chart above summarizes well how business leaders are increasingly leaning on their CIOs (and entire IT staffs) to become more engaged within the business – to operate at the speed of the company’s markets, to deliver valuable business services, to contribute to the company’s innovation process, and – of course – to do a better job getting the IT staff to be more savvy about the business itself.

Interestingly, “bring IT costs down” ranks well below these “bring value to the business” messages. This may surprise some, but it shouldn’t. The financial return from an IT organization that’s delivering valuable, timely business capabilities is much, much greater than the savings from shaving 10% or 20% from an IT budget that is, in total, only 1.5-3.5% of revenues. (Look for a forthcoming post about a recent conversation I had with Procter & Gamble’s CIO, Filippo Passerini, on this topic of delivering value to the business.)

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2 Responses to “Executives’ Top Message to Their CIOs: Innovate, Quickly”

Business agility is, I think, the key driver here. More and more companies tell me that the thing that will take longest to change is their information system and so IT becomes the determining factor in responding to a competitive threat, market change or new regulation. Building more agile systems, that can respond faster, is key. Building systems on the basis that they WILL change means new approaches and new technologies.

JT – agreed, agility is key. The growing pressure to improve Corporate IT’s speed and business relevance are driving the whole SOA transformation (as you mention), but also the shift toward extensive, dynamic external sourcing (and variable-cost IT) as critical IT practices, and increased focus on better governance and portfolio management approaches. Major implications for skills portfolio for CIO’s team.

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