CIOs too Busy Fire-fighting to Plan IT Strategy

Survey

A new survey by Calyx reveals that Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and IT Directors believe they are no longer playing a major part in shaping business strategy. Although technology is central to many key business strategies, from maximising internet presence through to data mining and business intelligence, the survey’s findings suggest that CIOs are still heavily focused on ‘keeping the lights on’, instead of outsourcing day-to-day maintenance and support tasks. As a result, many organisations are failing to exploit the full potential of ICT – and are losing out on creating a competitive edge.

When over 200 CIOs and IT directors were asked to name their most important responsibility, only around one third (33%) saw it as driving strategic growth through technology. Perhaps more significantly, even fewer (16%) actually spend their working day driving the development of business through IT while only (11%) say they mainly focus on developing strategic concepts around IT to move their organisation forward.

This is compared to 46% whose everyday tasks mainly involve ‘fire-fighting’; that is IT management and keeping systems up and running. This is all despite the fact that 64% of those polled sit on their company’s board of directors.

The survey paints a picture of senior IT decision makers being pulled from one problem to another, frustrated at having to deal with data management issues (60%), security (44%) and fulfilling ‘board-driven demands for cost-efficiencies and cost-cutting’ (33%).

Steve Clark, Calyx CEO says that he is not surprised by these findings: “Businesses are reliant on technology at practically every level and the cost of downtime is well documented – lost sales, lost productivity, damage to brand, even the shortest outage can be financially crippling for a business. So it isn’t surprising that uptime is a top priority for CIOs. What is surprising is that – with the breadth of skills needed to meet today’s maintenance and support challenges – they are trying to do the job in-house.”

Indeed, the survey reveals that many respondents perceive ‘freeing up the in-house IT team to focus on core IT drivers’ as a key benefit of outsourcing, a sentiment with which Clark agrees. Yet the survey also reveals that the majority (60%) do not currently outsource to a managed services provider, citing cost as a key barrier.
But for Clark, outsourcing is about more than saving time. “The real value comes from the technological expertise”, he explains. “Today’s ICT demands in-depth knowledge of networking, telephony, storage, applications. It’s impossible for all but the largest enterprises to hold that expertise in house. But by outsourcing, you’re gaining access to a team of specialists who know these technologies inside out and who can bring added value to your business through their sharing that expertise.”

He continues: “The most forward-looking companies are using technology to mould, transform and drive strategic growth – and in doing so they are gaining a tangible competitive advantage.

“This can only happen when senior IT executives are willing and able to relinquish responsibility for day-to-day maintenance, management and support tasks to a trusted third-party provider and instead focus on taking an over-arching and long term view of their business’s future.”