CIOs have made the move beyond the role of IT Manager to become strategic business influencers, especially when it comes to the job of transforming the customer experience. That’s one of the key findings of IT World Canada’s 2019 CanadianCIO Census report.

“Over the past 4 years, CIOs have established themselves as members of the strategic leadership team. No longer a plumber, the CIO is actively engaged in executive decisions,” said Jim Love, ITWC CIO.

The survey results show that CIOs are exerting more influence at the most senior levels of their organizations. They’re now being invited to executive meetings most of the time. Thirty-nine per cent of Census participants said they’re always involved in these meetings.

Canadian CIOs from businesses of all sizes responded to the 2019 survey, which was sponsored by Outsystems. The report also uncovers a shift in the priorities and challenges that CIOs are facing today.

Innovation and customer experience emerging as top priorities

Security continues to be the top issue for CIOs, both in day-to-day operations and over the next 12 months. Uptime and compliance also require constant attention, but business innovation is emerging as a big day-to-day concern. It shows that the idea of innovation has permeated the business culture more than ever, said Love.

“Creating new business streams requires innovation,” said Nuno Borges, Director of Customer Research with Outsystems. “Standing still is not an option. This is why CIOs are more involved in these areas.”  Indeed, 53 per cent of the CIOs said they’re already feeling the impact of digital transformation.  While the report shows that the majority of IT budgets is spent on “keeping the lights on,” 17 per cent is now dedicated to transformation, the highest percentage seen in a CanadianCIO Census.

Customer experience is now seen as a top priority for the next 12 months, well ahead of disaster recovery. “All underlying technology nowadays is moving to the cloud and is not a big differentiating factor,” said Borges. “Customer experience is where the business is coming from. Businesses need to improve loyalty and make sure the customers have a frictionless experience. That is what will make the difference.”

The biggest challenge facing CIOs today is not what you think it is

In the past, if you asked CIOs about the greatest challenge of leadership, they would have said budget, said Love. According to this year’s Census, almost half of CIOs see the corporate culture as a major challenge to digital transformation. “That’s a huge shift which reflects the strategic role of the CIO,” said Love. “CIOs are increasingly responsible for changing the culture.”

Legacy systems and the talent shortage were also identified as impediments to transformation. Canadian CIOs want to hire staff for application development and support, business analysis and big data, however, these are also the most difficult skills to find.

The demand isn’t going away, said Borges. “There has to be a shift from native development to use tools that allow you to innovate faster.”

Overall, the report demonstrates that the issues and priorities that CIOS must address are becoming increasingly complex and diverse. “CIOs need to be drivers for change and motivate people to holistically change what the business can do,” said Borges. “If they can do that, they will thrive in the market.”

Download the CanadianCIO Census 2019 report

Register for webinar: “The CIO as Business Linchpin in the Customer Experience Age”


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