CIOs thrive in recession

CIOs are under extreme pressure to deliver more with decreasing budgets, but are upbeat about the challenges that the worldwide recession is throwing at them, the latest Harvey Nash IT Leadership Survey reveals.

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CIOs across Europe are increasingly reporting to the chief financial officer (CFO). Just 30 per cent of those surveyed reported directly to the chief executive, a drop of six percent from last year. Harvey Nash believe this is a recession-related trend as the CFO's importance is highlighted in the current economy. Less than half of the survey's respondents report to the board, the same figure as last year.

Appraising their teams, CIOs are still on the look-out for staff that can align with the business and deliver value from the IT investments available.

Rating the most important skills in their IT team, 67 percent said building and maintaining relationships with the business was the most important skill set, followed by 57 percent prioritising managing and prioritising demand from the business and 40 per cent identifying managing and prioritising IT projects.

With these skills in mind, most CIOs responding to the survey are worried about their being a skills shortage when the economy begins to recover.

Over half of those surveyed said their organisation is suffering as a result of skills shortage, a drop from 71 per cent last year, but indicative of a continued lack of business focused workers in the IT industry. Most expected the impact of a skills shortage to be greater than in the last 12 months. CIOs have, as a result, changed their views on skilled migration. Asked if they "believe skilled migration from abroad can help fill your skills gap", 54 percent responded positively, down from 72 percent in 2008.

Outsourcing and offshoring remain strategic objectives for organisations, with 76 per cent of those polled planning to retain their current levels or increase outsourcing. Success rates remain mixed, four in ten projects, according to Harvey Nash, are not achieving the demands of CIOs.

Outsourcing is being used for software application development by 59 per cent of CIOs surveyed and infrastructure development by 58 per cent.

Maintenance of applications has been outsourced by 47 per cent and systems integration has gone out of house in 23 per cent of organisations polled. Spending on outsourcing has increased, and in 52 percent of cases it has risen by 10 per cent when compared to 2008. A third are looking to increase their spending on outsourcing over the next year, which is down on the expectations of CIOs last year.

Last year most CIOs cited meeting the needs of the business as their main reason behind outsourcing; this year cost reduction is the top reason for 38 per cent of respondents, with 31 per cent still claiming business needs as their main reason.

CIOs are being called upon by their organisations to use IT in innovative ways. Harvey Nash found that 86 per cent of those surveyed were being asked to use IT to boost the competitive abilities of the company.

Over half of the CIOs surveyed said IT vendors were their favoured partners for innovation, but collaborating with customers is on the rise for innovative ideas, with 29 per cent citing their customers. Eight per cent of a CIO's budget is being invested into innovative ideas by 35 per cent of the CIOs responding to the survey, down from 42 per cent in 2008, but not a significant drop. Just over a quarter, 27 per cent, are reporting a 10 per cent RoI on their innovations and 61 per cent are reporting an RoI of five per cent.

The recession is unsurprisingly dampening the CIO's urge to change job, with 80 per cent of the survey respondents saying they were satisfied with their current remuneration and 60 per cent saying they were earning salaries of over €100,000.

Asked about which leadership skills they consider to be the most important in the downturn, 76 per cent cite communications skills, 67 per cent leadership, 52 per cent strategy and 44 per cent commercial awareness, which really indicates the business focussed role of the European CIO.

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