Mark Rogers, CEO at Logicalis Group, digs into the Logicalis Global CIO Survey 2017-2018 to pick out some of the major topics arising from the survey of 890 CIOs in 23 countries.
The big themes emerging from this years survey break CIO priorities down across three areas that could be mistaken for business as usual: Simplify, secure and engage. But, on the contrary, each has its part to play in a much loftier goal - digital transformation.
Indeed, the headline from the CIO Survey 2017-18 survey is this: CIOs say a massive infrastructure overhaul must be coupled with culture change if organisations are to unlock the benefits of digital transformation.
Digital ambition versus digital reality
That headline finding stems from CIOs’ assessment of their organisations’ digital footing.
The CIO Survey 2017-18 tells a story of real digital ambition amongst CIOs, but of limited progress in delivering digital transformation. To use tech adoption bell curve terminology, only 5% of respondents call their organisations digital innovators right now, while 49% characterise their organisations as part of an early majority.
That’s not a significant change on last years’ figures - and the reality is most CIOs see their organisations as partly digitally enabled at best.
Crucially, however, they contextualise those rather cautious views with a realistic and pragmatic assessment of the barriers to digital transformation - and it is their ambitious plans to overcome those barriers that give rise to the ‘simplify, secure, and engage’ triptych:
For almost half (44%) of respondents to this year’s CIO survey, complex legacy technology is the chief barrier to digital transformation.
In simple terms, the job of maintaining and managing those complex environments - in the face of ever more draconian security threats, and business demand for ever more open architecture - is huge. So, legacy complexity doesn’t just slow down or prevent digital projects, it also prevents a refocus on higher level, strategy activity, like digital transformation.
That is clearly not lost on CIOs, who understand very well the urgent need to simplify existing systems - indeed, 51% said they planned to adapt or replace existing infrastructure as a means of accelerating digital transformation.
It’s not hard to envisage CIOs making greater use of cloud services and third party support as a means of both simplifying those systems and handing off some of the management burden associated with them.
It’s no great surprise to see security high on the CIO agenda given the nature of the cyber threat landscape - and no great surprise either to see ransomware top of the threat list for CIOs. Ransomware is the biggest threat according to 71% of CIOs surveyed in the CIO Survey 2017-18.
More surprising though, is the fact that one in three CIOs admit security concerns have led to the curtailment or cancellation of IT projects - a fact that must surely amplify the impact of security issues on digital transformation.
With that in mind, it is small wonder that so many CIOs (31%) see increased security investment as crucial to digital transformation - and not just to weathering the next cyber threat storm.
I’m in little doubt that CIOs’ security focus will drive an increased demand for services like Cisco Umbrella as organisations adopt multi-layered security solutions capable of defending against an ever-evolving array of cyber threats.
Perhaps most interesting, CIOs see organisational culture as a key barrier to digital transformation. That is, legacy technology brings with it a legacy relationship between business and technology, a ‘separateness’ that is incompatible with a digital model that puts technology at the heart of every aspect of the business.
In response, CIOs want to engage with line of business (LOB) to drive culture change. They want to be the digital ambassadors who create a new relationship between business and technology, and who foster an environment in which digital transformation can thrive.
Analytics offers a case in point. Back in 2015, 63% of CIOs ranked analytics as ‘very important’ or ‘critical’ to driving business innovation.
Two years later the same barriers to delivering those benefits remain complex systems and siloed data, but so is business engagement - the lack of a clear brief from the business as to what is required from analytics is still an issue for 41% of CIOs.
Crucially, though, they are responding: 54% of CIOs are working with LOB colleagues to bottom out requirements and 38% are setting up working groups to unravel complexity.
Those plans to tackle analytics suggest that CIOs are successfully adapting to a changing environment for business IT, an issue I first highlighted in 2015. The big question is whether they will be successful in replicating the approach as they seek to unlock the benefits of wider digital transformation.
In my view, the CIOs that are successful in tackling these three big issues will be those looking outside for help. The majority still spend between 60% and 80% of their time on day to day IT management - an issue that, in itself, is a barrier to change.
That’s partly because so much IT remains in-house. Only 25% outsource 50% or more of their IT - a situation that must surely change quickly if CIOs are to free themselves from the everyday and be digital change makers, not change managers.