by George Nott

The Aussie CIO: New here, well paid and focused on what’s next

May 24, 2016
Business IntelligenceCareersCollaboration Software

Developing new products and services is the top priority of Australian CIOs, according to a global survey of more than 3,000 technology leaders.

The Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2016 found this to be the main focus of 55 per cent of IT leaders in Australia, while their global peers said finding operational efficiencies was their number one aim.

Around the world, more CIOs report directly to the CEO (34 per cent) than at any time in the past decade, rising 10 per cent over the last year.

“CEOs are broadly becoming much more tech-savvy and as such they appreciate the benefit of having direct access to the technology expert within the organisation,” said Bridget Gray, managing director of Harvey Nash Australia.

“CEOs know the better the engagement with technology, the more likely a business is to increase market share and ultimately strong reputation and profitability.”

However, Australian CIOs were less likely to be on their company’s executive committee (53 per cent compared with 57 per cent globally) and only 42 per cent had seen their IT budget increase compared with 45 per cent globally.

They were however, more likely to have received a pay increase than their global peers – 36 per cent of Australian IT leaders reported a pay increase in the past year compared with 34 per cent globally.

Shifting priorities

The survey found that CEOs are now more focused on IT projects that make money (63 per cent), compared with those that save money (37 per cent).

The traditional top CIO priorities have suffered a major drop in importance over the last four years, according to the survey which included more than 200 Australian IT leaders. The reported importance of operational efficiencies dropped 16 per cent since last year, and delivering stable IT performance dropped 27 per cent. The only priority to increase was better engagement with customers – up 15 per cent since 2013.

Four out of ten CIOs said they spent at least one day a week with non-IT colleagues on issues such as business strategy.

Moving on up

Nearly a fifth of Australian CIOs were not in their current role a year ago, according to the survey. That’s significantly more than the global average of 15 per cent.

“The sheer amount of disruption, excitement around business model evolution, along with changes in exec leadership that we have experienced generally here in Australia has naturally created fresh opportunities and changes in the market for the CIO,” said Gray.

“CIOs need a voice and true executive buy-in to successfully drive and execute their vision, so if they think they will get that elsewhere, they are more inclined to seriously consider a move.”

Some 55 per cent of CIOs believe their career in next five years will be outside IT, up from 48 per cent last year. Nevertheless, 84 per cent report they are ‘fulfilled’ or ‘very fulfilled’ in their role.

Talent shortage

Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of CIOs believe a lack of talent will prevent their organisation from keeping up with the pace of change, a 10 per cent increase in just 12 months and the highest since 2008. This technology skills shortage is felt most by IT leaders in Asia-Pacific, with almost seven in ten reporting insufficient talent to achieve their objectives.

Digital strategy

Australian CIOs are well ahead of their global peers when it comes to having an enterprise-wide digital strategy. Forty-one per cent of Australian CIOs did so compared with just 35 per cent globally.

The survey found that as more organisations gain experience with digital and understand its strategic impact, ownership of digital is increasingly migrating from within IT and marketing to the C-Suite and Board of Directors.

The creative CIO

“It is a very good time to be a CIO, especially a creative one,” said Albert Ellis, CEO, Harvey Nash Group. “This creative CIO is moving away from ‘keeping the lights on’, to enabling the business to create value.

“CIOs in 2016 are dealing with a more varied range of challenges than ever before, many of which are far, far away from traditional IT. Adaptability, influencing skills and an ability to keep a clear head in uncertain times are becoming increasingly important business skills.”