CIOs hold the purse strings

Today’s Chief Information Officers viewed as ‘de facto Chief Operating Officers’, responsible for business operations and direction.

CIOs now control the majority of organisational budgets and are second only to the CEO in terms of shaping and delivering business strategy, research from Citrix®, a business unit of Cloud Software Group, has found. The study was based on interviews with 3,300 business leaders working in large- and mid-market businesses across the globe.

Shaping Strategy

As companies strive for success against a difficult economic backdrop, they are looking to tech leaders to act as strategic business partners. According to the data:

•67% of business leaders say the CIO is now second only to the CEO in terms of shaping and delivering the business strategy.

•64% of business leaders say the CIO has control of the majority of their organisation’s budget.

•73% of business leaders believe that having a vision for the future is important for being a successful tech leader in today’s working world.

The study reveals that CIOs are increasingly responsible for other aspects of business too, from regulation and compliance to ESG performance. This ever-broadening remit comes with the need for new skills and attributes, with emotional intelligence now considered one of the most essential qualities to being a successful tech leader in today’s working world.

Infrastructure Challenges

The research also shows, however, that despite this broadening remit, in practice many CIOs are still tied up with infrastructure: 67% of C-level tech leaders (1,100 respondents) say legacy systems and technical debt are a significant challenge in their role.

CIOs and other C-suite tech leaders are also navigating talent shortages and a looming vacuum at the top. Almost half (46%) of C-level tech leaders are delaying their retirement because they fear there is nobody to replace them. This fear makes sense in light of their current responsibilities, as 60% say their role involves ensuring everyone in the organisation has the tech they need to work effectively, and half say that they are involved in tech troubleshooting for employees. While the role is evolving, more work needs to be done to ensure CIOs are able to prioritise the higher-level business strategy work required of future IT leaders.

“Businesses are in a state of flux, and CIOs are right at the centre. CIOs are expected to be agents of change but are still caught up with legacy infrastructure and transformation projects,” said Sridhar Mullapudi, General Manager, Citrix, a business unit of Cloud Software Group. “Additionally, they must play a key role in navigating the current talent crisis, both by providing tools to maximise employee productivity and by leading automation projects.”

Therefore, today’s tech leaders find themselves caught between a ‘traditional’ CIO role – gatekeeping infrastructure and managing digital transformation projects – and a ‘transitional’ role – defining and refining workplace technology and driving business strategy.

Today’s CIOs are responsible for technology transformation to supercharge tomorrow’s world of work. The hardest part of that role is managing the introduction of new, game-changing technologies without losing the value of existing systems currently powering the business. Successful CIOs will invest in infrastructures that help them both manage the past and prepare for the future, as tech leadership is now intrinsically tied to organisational success, and CIOs must adapt to their role as change agents.

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