CIOs around the world are facing high levels of uncertainty as 2015 gets underway, according to a global survey by Gartner, Inc. The 2015 survey showed that issues experienced by CIOs are far from universal and real differences exist at both a regional and country level.
"The only certainty for CIOs seems to be the unstoppable advancement of digitalization," said Dave Aron, vice president and Gartner Fellow. "Government, companies and our personal lives are being more deeply penetrated by digital capabilities, opportunities and threats. Digitalization represents both a massive opportunity and new and heightened levels of threat for all countries and companies, and CIOs are facing new, more challenging and more exciting circumstances as digital moves to center stage."
Gartner has been conducting a global CIO survey for more than 10 years, with the 2015 survey reaching 2,810 respondents in 84 countries, and representing nearly $400 billion in IT budgets and a combined $12 trillion in public sector budgets and private-sector revenue.
CIOs in the U.S. report an IT budget increase of 0.9 percent for 2015. While the average growth in IT budgets is marginally smaller in the U.S. than the rest of the world (0.9 percent vs. 1.1 percent), only one of eight CIOs in the U.S. is facing a decreasing IT budget.
Looking beyond the Nexus of Forces (cloud, mobility, social and big data) and into the next generation of disruptive "SMART" technologies — sensors, maker machines (3D print), augmented humans, robotics and thinking machines — the survey revealed that for every category, the percentage of U.S. CIOs that says "not relevant right now" is larger than their global counter parts.
However, when looking at the number of companies that either have already invested or are actively experimenting, U.S.-based CIOs are — with the exception of the Internet of Things (IoT) — ahead of their global peers as those who have picked up on these technologies and have moved to either experiment with them or deployed them to a larger degree than their global peers.
The survey results also indicate that CIOs in the U.S. believe that they are taking a larger role as digital leaders (54 percent vs. 43 percent of global CIOs), they see themselves spending more time as visionary leaders than their global peers (23 percent vs. 21 percent) — yet only 34 percent of CIOs in the U.S. has a chief operating officer (COO), whereas 53 percent globally have a COO.
"While U.S.-based CIOs seem to consider themselves as digital leaders, the survey points to a number of areas where the reality is that U.S.-based CIOs trail their global counterparts," said Mr. Aron. "U.S.-based CIOs must critically reflect upon their role and actions as a leader and ensure that there is a match between their desired role, their ability to deliver on that role as well as how the rest of the IT organization is set up to deliver on their digital role."
CIOs in China revealed an IT budget increase of 8.5 percent, way above the global average of 1.1 percent. Historical data shows that the IT budget at enterprises in China is much lower than the global average. This means that the high increase of IT budget is coming from a very low base.
While globally 47 percent of CIOs believe they have the digital leadership responsibility for their business, only 33 percent of CIOs in China do. This indicates that most CIOs in China are still seeing themselves as traditional CIOs taking care of traditional IT responsibilities (such as to support the business process running), and letting other senior executives take the digital leadership roles. CIOs in China should be more proactive and devote themselves to the digital world so that they can demonstrate their value to the business.
U.K. and Ireland:
A generally positive outlook is translating to growth in average IT spend in the U.K. and Ireland, with CIOs expecting to increase IT budgets by 1.4 percent in 2015. In addition to this increase in the IT budget, there is an increasing amount of investment in IT occurring across the enterprise, with more than 21 percent of IT investment taking place outside of the official IT budget. As CIOs emerge from a long period of cost-cutting and restricted IT budgets, there is a renewed focus on strategic investments in information and technology that will enable business growth.
One measure of CIO leadership and influence in the enterprise is the amount of time spent with senior business stakeholders compared with the amount of time managing the IT organization. CIOs should aim to spend a majority of their time working with the rest of the business to ensure that the value of information and technology is understood and the right investments are made. In 2015, leading CIOs will spend less than 40 percent of their time running the IT organization, choosing instead to spend time with other CxOs (27 percent of their time), business unit leaders (18 percent of their time) and external customers (16 percent of their time).
CIOs in the U.K. and Ireland also show a progressive attitude toward emerging SMART technologies. A significant minority of CIOs have moved beyond monitoring the trends to actively investing and deploying solutions. This is especially true for robotics (9 percent) and IoT (10 percent).
In the 2015 survey, Latin America had the lowest increase in regional forecast budgets in comparison with other regions (0.4 percent), indicating a cautious approach to new expenditures when compared with the previous year. Such a small increase in IT budgets also suggests that companies will seek cost-optimization efforts in order to free some money for new IT expenditures that might be necessary.
Investments in the public cloud are important for companies that wish to thrive in the digital business era. Although less relevant than for global respondents, more than 50 percent of companies in Latin America already consider infrastructure as a service (IaaS) either as a first option or include the cloud as one of their options before making final decisions. Likewise, investments in mobile applications are increasingly becoming the first priority when enhancing or designing new applications. "Mobile first" has become the main strategy for 25 percent of Latin American CIOs when dealing with customer-facing applications. In a mobile-driven digital world, this is an immediate call to action that CIOs and organizations should review their development strategies and priorities to start considering mobile as at least a secondary option.
More detailed analysis is available in the report "Global Perspectives on Flipping to Digital Leadership: The 2015 CIO Agenda." This forms part of the 2015 CIO Agenda Special Report research, a collection of research documents leveraging the 2015 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey in order to contextualize and clarify the behaviors and decisions facing CIOs in a diverse range of industries and geographies worldwide.
The Special Report is available on Gartner's website at https://www.gartner.com/en/information-technology/cio-it-executives.