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Who’s leading the digital transformation? At a majority of companies, it isn’t the CIO

As digital transformation continues to reshape the business landscape, what is the role of the CIO? The latest research points to a huge gap between those CIOs who are leading the digital charge at their respective companies and those who remain focused on operational efficiencies.

Conducted from January to March of this year, Deloitte’s 2018 CIO Survey included 1,437 technology and business leaders from 23 industries in 71 countries. Remarkably, among the participants, the study found that 60 percent of CIOs are not involved in developing or executing their organization’s digital strategy—even when it is central to their company’s business strategy as a whole. Only one out four CIOs indicated that their organization has an enterprise-wide digital strategy at all.

More than half of the CIOs surveyed still consider providing efficient and reliable information technology services as their primary role. This is in sharp contrast to the views of what the report terms “vanguard CIOs,” who see themselves as catalysts for corporate growth and transformation.

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“Vanguard CIOs are involved in the entire business, from front-to back-office functions,” says Kristi Lamar, managing director and experience leader for Deloitte Consulting’s CIO Program and one of the report’s authors. “Every company is a technology company, so it’s important for CIOs to be involved in enterprise strategy and to cooperate closely with corporate boards. Those that don’t will struggle to adjust to technological change.”

The study found that among all CIOs:

  • Vanguard CIOs are much more likely to have strong involvement with front-office functions. For example, 72 percent of these vanguard CIOs report strong relationships with their company’s sales teams, compared with only 55 percent of more traditional CIOs.
  • Vanguard CIOs are far ahead of their corporate competitors when it comes to prioritizing IT investments. Fifty-one percent have a coherent and transparent process for investment prioritization, compared with 35 percent of other CIOs.
  • Companies with vanguard CIOs are far less likely to measure the value of their technology investments on a case-by-case basis (48 percent versus 68 percent). When they do want to determine the return on an investment, they are less ad hoc about the process and more likely to have a financial model in place for determining ROI (34 percent to 26 percent).

Vanguard CIOs also report having significantly more contact with their respective boards than their more operationally-oriented counterparts. And those interactions, they say, play a significant role in helping them initiate discussions about business transformation and technology innovation.

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