Executive Summary: Reimagining IT: The 2011 CIO Agenda

Published: 01 January 2011 ID: G00210382

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With half of CIOs moving most applications and infrastructure to the cloud, they have an opportunity to reimagine IT by asking how resources can be deployed in other ways. Reimagining IT in light of these technologies will broaden IT's contribution to enterprise growth and competiveness.


Modest budget growth and growing legacy requirements have forced CIOs and IT to make heavy operational commitments. New lighter-weight technologies and IT models enable CIOs to reimagine IT and focus on two objectives that elude many IT organizations: growth and strategic impact.

Table 1.   CIO Agenda process change

This year, the CIO Agenda reflects enhancements to the top 10 lists. In the CIO Survey that collects data for the agenda, we asked CIOs to provide, in a free-form manner, their top 3 business strategies, CIO strategies and technologies. In prior years, we asked them to select their top 5 items in each category from a list we provided. This change addresses CIO requests for a broader array of inputs and a shorter survey. The authors categorized the CIO responses into groups and then used these groups to rank CIO priorities in the top 10 lists.

Source: Gartner.

This report addresses the questions, What are a CIO’s priorities for the coming year, and how will CIOs deliver on enterprise expectations?

“Reimagining IT: The 2011 CIO Agenda” was written by members of the CIO & executive leadership research group, led by Mark McDonald (group vice president), assisted by Dave Aron (vice president and Distinguished Analyst).

We would like to thank the many organizations and individuals that generously contributed their insights and experiences to the research, including:

  • The 2,014 CIOs who responded to this year’s survey, representing more than $160 billion in CIO IT budgets and covering 38 industries in 50 countries.

  • The contributors to our interviews and case studies: Joe Waller, Betfair (U.K.); Rubens Pinto, Boehringer Ingelheim Brazil; Sergio Escobedo and Gilberto Garcia, CEMEX (Mexico); Jim Norred and John Thompson, Crossmark (U.S.); Barbara DeLoureiro and Sanjay Mirchandani, EMC (U.S.); Felipe Amores, Fábrica Nacional Moneda y Timbre (Spain); Brent Stacey, Idaho National Laboratory, (U.S.); Hans Blokpoel, Simone Dobbelaar and Eric van’t Geloof, Immigratie-en Naturalisatiedienst (Netherlands); Roger Parks, J. R. Simplot (U.S.); Mark Dajani, Kraft Foods (U.S.); Haden Land, Lockheed Martin (U.S.); and Mike Hedges, Medtronic (U.S.).

  • Other Gartner colleagues: Susan Fortino and Claudia Ramos.

  • Other members of the CIO & executive leadership research group: Richard Hunter and Diane Morello.

Executive Summary

2010 was a year of economic, strategic and technological transitions and achievements that have made IT stronger. Over the next four years, almost half of all CIOs expect to operate the majority of their applications and infrastructures via cloud technologies. This change requires that CIOs reimagine IT and lead it through a process of “creative destruction.”

CIOs must reimagine IT to support growth and competitive advantage

As enterprises concentrate on growth, they remain vigilant about costs and operational efficiencies (see figure opposite). Growth requires IT to raise its strategic importance to the business rather than focus on delivery of generic business plans. Combined with continued tight IT budgets, these factors call for CIOs to engage in “creative destruction”—taking what they have now and reimagining it to build IT’s future.

To reimagine IT, a CIO begins with a new conception of the IT organization and its contribution to the enterprise. The idea of reimagining comes from the entertainment industry, whose creative minds often take a familiar story and think, what if we …? With almost half of CIOs planning to move the majority of their applications and infrastructure to the cloud over the next four years, CIOs have an opportunity to reimagine IT by looking at current resources and asking what would be possible if they were deployed in other ways.

Creative destruction develops new resources by dismantling and redirecting existing ones. In IT, this means applying new technologies and practices in ways that redirect or liberate resources to deliver greater innovation and value. Infrastructure technologies such as virtualization and cloud computing enable CIOs to generate resources to support innovation, growth and strategy.

Figure 1. Business strategies place a new emphasis on growth
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner.

Business leaders must consider what it means to be a digital enterprise

Becoming a next-generation digital enterprise means generating a greater percentage of enterprise revenue via information and Internet technologies. This contrasts with the first wave of the digital revolution, which measured how digital an enterprise was based on its Web presence. By the new definition, most enterprises have much work to do before they can become fully digitized (see figure below). They need to become digital from the front office to the back office, which gives them the opportunity to reimagine IT as the center of the next digital revolution.

Figure 2. Public and private sector organizations have relatively low levels of digitization
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner.

CIOs should address value from the outside and people from the inside

CIOs recognize that they need to reposition themselves and IT to support enterprise innovation and growth. However, two issues stand in their way: benefits realization (the achievement of business benefits) and IT skills. Skills are an issue because CIOs rely on bringing skills in from the outside whenever they need to get work done (see figure below). Both issues will prevent IT from reaching full potential unless the CIO addresses them.

Figure 3. CIOs report that their most effective and frequent method of gaining the right skills is to bring in temporary skills from outside of IT
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner.

Business results are a CIO’s greatest asset and most potent liability

To achieve results, CIOs must draw on different sources of power and influence (see figure below). The importance of this will grow as IT becomes increasingly integrated into the enterprise. There is no such thing as a pure IT project anymore. Whether investments are more IT-intensive or less so, they are all business projects.

Figure 4. CIOs see business results and business knowledge as their primary sources of success and influence
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner.

Reimagining IT is the fulcrum of the CIO Agenda

CIOs need to reimagine IT as a strategic catalyst and begin leading from that perspective (see figure below). They have known for years that they need to deliver business results. And yet, operational concerns, budget constraints and business expectations have limited IT’s ability to act. This need not be the case any longer. Lighter-weight technologies have changed resource requirements, letting IT meet increased demand for innovation and solutions that support growth.

Figure 5. Reimagining IT creates a new CIO success cycle
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner.

© 2011 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartners research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

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