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Why asking CIOs to lead digital innovation is a bad idea

The theme at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo this year is "Driving Digital Business". Firstbiz asked Mark Raskino, vice president and Gartner Fellow, to share his views on what CEOs top priorities are, and how those priorities are helping organisations push forward in today's digital business environment.

The '2014 Gartner CEO and Senior Executive Survey' examines CEO and senior business executive views on current business issues, as well as some areas impacting business. What are the IT priorities for CEOs moving forward?
Raskino: Growth is very clearly king in this year's business priorities with 33 percent of respondents naming growth as their top priority. In 2014, growth almost equals the sum of the next three issues on the list of top strategic business priorities. The next step will be for CEOs and CIOs to work together to match the use of modern technologies to the specific kind of growth that the business is trying to win.

 Why asking CIOs to lead digital innovation is a bad idea

Mark Raskino

IT-related issues, including mentions of digital, were ranked fourth in CEO's business priorities this year - the highest we have seen in over a decade. This supports a broader observation that CEOs are taking a higher personal interest in applying technology more aggressively in their firms. Technology talk points are becoming far more visible in CEO results presentations, investor calls and business press interviews.

Technology and digital are often separated in the minds of business executives. However, if combined, the survey showed that they are the third-most-significant external trend shaping business strategies. This level of engagement with technology has probably not been seen since the tail end of the 1990s. Why are CEOs becoming more involved and informed about technology and digital?
Raskino: CEOs have noticed the importance of digital technology in customers everyday lives. They also see the rise of powerful and sometimes threatening tech-centric competitors, introducing new business models and disrupting industries. CEOs sense that they must make their companies more aggressive with digital and be prepared to challenge the old ways of doing business. However, they must maintain a coherent and integrated view of the investment being made. Don't allow too much fragmentation across sales, marketing, digital, IT and other budgets to obscure the view and reduce directional control.

Moving forward, CEOs see digital as a team game, and the CIO still has the highest visibility. The survey showed that CEOs would allocate relatively more responsibility for leading digital innovation and change over the next two years to the CIO. Why is this significant?
Raskino: Asking the CIO to be first among equals in establishing digital change, is a sudden and major change of expectation of the role. Digital is strongly associated with innovation, in front of and for the customer. Two years ago, our 2012 CEO survey found CIOs were low on the list of perceived innovation leaders. Over the last decade, CIOs, and the IT function in general, have often been tasked as IT cost managers and service quality assurers, but not as strong innovators or business strategy contributors.

The sudden shift in expectation is likely to lead to some disappointments, and we expect that in turn to lead to some churn in the role.

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Updated Date: Sep 29, 2014 12:00:43 IST

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