CIOs must think business, says Gartner

Chief information officers must shift their priorities to encompass business objectives to meet company growth targets, industry analyst Gartner has urged.

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Chief information officers must shift their priorities to encompass business objectives to meet company growth targets, industry analyst Gartner has urged.

CIOs who get to grips with business objectives will differentiate themselves and their IT departments, said Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research for Gartner EXP. These CIOs will become leaders in an emerging trend of increasing staff business skills and acumen.

Gartner has identified four strategies that CIOs should pursue, based on a survey of more than 1,400 CIOs worldwide. These cover technical excellence, enterprise agility, information effectiveness and innovation.

Ensuring effective information involves using analytics and applying information to the way business decisions are made, rather than the way information is moved around the company's computer systems. Companies that "look at [information] as a resource as opposed to an asset to be managed had significantly better performance," McDonald said.

In the survey, 86% of CIOs identified innovation as critical to success, but only 26% said innovation processes were sufficient to achieve goals. Although a corporate environment or culture that did not encourage innovation was flagged as the main barrier, the survey found that among those who said innovation processes were sufficient, corporate culture was not mentioned. Instead these companies approached innovation as a "structured process" that generated results.

The survey found that IT departments would on average have bigger budgets for the fourth year in a row, although this year’s average increase was just 3%. This pointed to a need to "do more with what you've got", rather than doing more with less, McDonald said.

Successful CIOs understood that "business knowledge has to become the highest common denominator” across the IT department, presenting a challenge for companies where the IT focus is more on technical expertise.

"My coder should know how my company makes money regardless of the work they do," McDonald said. Ensuring this meant changing the source of new recruits, he added.

More than 70% of CIOs anticipated that they would recruit from other companies’ IT departments rather than "tapping into the reservoir of talent within their own businesses", McDonald said. But this meant ending up with "more of the same rather than someone who is different".

CIOs also need to focus on training for employees they already have, to help them develop heightened business acumen.

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