Thursday, 9th July 2020

UK CIO struggles: many left unfulfilled and held back by internal ‘politics’

Just 6% of CIOs describe their organisation’s digital technology as agile and inherent to the business.

A significant number of UK chief information officers (CIOs) feel unfulfilled in their roles, with many claiming to be held back by internal politics and 'sacred cows', according to new research from Citrix.

The report, Nowhere to hide – UK CIOs and the age of digital change, analyses research carried out by OnePoll, which quizzed 400 CIOs in organisations employing over 250 employees across the UK. The participating IT leaders were polled on factors that influence their performance, the longevity of their role and the state of digital maturity in their organisations.

Responding to the poll, just two in five (42%) CIOs believed they had “fulfilled their visions” in their last job role, with more than half (53%) believing they only achieved ‘some’ of their goals. Reflecting on why this might be the case, around three quarters (73%) felt the IT infrastructure they inherited from their predecessor made their job of transforming the organisation into a digitally-led business significantly more difficult.

When asked what holds them back from performing to the best of their abilities, the top three reasons cited were internal politics and 'sacred cows' (ideas or ways of working which are seemingly immune to criticism) (24%), the c-suite seeking an immediate return on investment from projects (22%) and tight budgetary restraints (22%).

Large businesses still at the early stages of digital maturity

Adding to their difficulties, just 6% of CIOs described the technology in their organisation as agile and inherent to the business. Two-fifths (38%) consider their organisation to be at the ‘functionally competent’ stage of development - where the technology works but isn't 'smart' or used well.

Where CIOs have seen poor IT infrastructure, underinvestment in technology and weak internal IT leadership skills, they believe the largest impact is reduced productivity (49%), with restricted growth (45%) and a lack of modernisation across the business (41%) closely following.

Three in five (60%) responding businesses have hired a chief digital officer (CDO) to move the organisation forward, yet nearly half (44%) of CIOs believe the CDO position will be redundant within five years, with a further 11% believing the role isn’t needed at all.

CIOs last just five years before moving on

Half (51%) of CIOs spent less than five years in their previous role, with a similar number (48%) anticipating spending the same time in their current post. Around one in five (16%) don’t believe they’ll stay longer than three years in their current post.

Two thirds (67%) felt that to remain effective and maintain a strong CV, they need to move to a new CIO position at least every five years. Alongside this, around one in four (24%) CIOs are now taking on the responsibility that a CDO or equivalent would hold (rather than formally appointing someone to take this role).

“CIOs need patience, backing and autonomy from the board in order to turn their vision into a reality. Many feel hamstrung by the infrastructure they inherited and report being denied the time and organisational structure to put it right – resulting in them leaving their roles without having achieved what they’d set out to do,” Darren Fields, Regional Director, UK & Ireland, Citrix said.

“For any organisation to reach a point at which digital technology is a business enabler - rather than a function - its tech leaders must be allowed the time and freedom to evaluate the state of play, develop a plan and then execute on it. Short-termism leaves businesses uncertain on this digital strategy, which holds back productivity, restrains growth and puts businesses under increasing threat from competitors,” Fields added.

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