CIOs have a lot on their plates. The balancing act of investing in the future and maximizing operational efficiency today is a constant battle that bleeds into every big decision. So where do you invest your resources? The popular answer might be: transforming IT today so that tomorrow you can focus on business strategy. That’s just great. Really. Unfortunately, the rest of the organization thinks all of that should have been done yesterday. So while you know you’re adding value to the company and making IT more agile, a lot of other departments see your department as more of a drag than an engine. That’s not going to help your job security is it?
The 2015 State of the CIO survey shows that CIOs spend the majority of their time in transformational activities now, but in 3–5 years, 72% of CIOs believe they will (or want to) focus more on business strategy. This transition suggests that many organizations are seeking to currently transform their infrastructure while simultaneously acknowledging how important it is to look into future tech.
But which is more pertinent to a CIO, whose average tenure at an organization is only 5 years, according to the same study? And how does he or she balance the responsibilities of current transformation with the need to prove their strategic value?
There’s no doubt CIOs are spending more time overseeing the details of digital transformation. After all, those clouds aren’t going to wrangle themselves. But all that time down in the trenches slaving over a hot data center architecture priority means less time for the cool strategic activities that raise buzz and bring in revenue. This year only 27% of CIOs classify themselves as business strategists, a 7% drop from last year.
Another thing taking time away from strategic thinking: holding onto the things IT already does. More than a third of CIOs report fighting turf battles against others in the C-suite. It’s not just the COO, CMO, CISO or CFO that are doing the encroaching, either. There’s a whole new batch of C-level execs elbowing their way to that top-floor table. The emergence of chief digital officers, chief data officers, chief transformation officers, and more makes it easier for others to argue the CIO is just becoming the sys-admin in chief.
Sadly a lot of CIOs don’t see the writing on the wall—at least not as big and bold as some others in the organization. Yes, 36% of them say they're involved in a turf battle. But a much higher percentage—close to half—of non-IT executives surveyed by IDC recognize the struggle for control. And more alarmingly, 37% of business leaders say the CIO is being sidelined while only 20% of CIOs feel the same way. In all fairness that’s a difficult thing to find out, never mind to admit. It’s frequently a matter of perception, but perception is the number one weapon of choice in turf battles.
For what it’s worth, both groups understand that the CIO and IT get blamed more than they should. About half of business and IT executives surveyed said that IT gets scapegoated whenever anything goes wrong anywhere in the company.
One way to prove your value as a CIO used to be the going for a quick win. Unfortunately knocking down the low-hanging fruit isn’t as impressive to your peers as it used to be. What’s worse is that most CIOs don’t seem to know that. The State of the CIO survey found 51% of CIOs named the quick win a key tactic for improving relations with other departments. However, just 31% of non-IT business decision-makers agree.
If all this sounds a little bleak remember the biggest problem here is the CIOs who don’t know all this is happening. You are not among them. Knowing is half the battle, as the saying goes. There are many things to do to change other people’s perceptions of IT. One is to embed your people in other departments. It’s easy to shift blame for a failure to someone you’ve never met, it’s harder when they are working right beside you, understand your problems, and are trying to fix them. As your transformation progresses and your ability to deliver timely, helpful solutions increases, others will see IT for the valuable and indispensable ally it is.