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Survey: CIOs see IT moving from cost center to trust center, even as challenges abound

The days of the CIO serving strictly as an IT operator are over, according to the survey.

CHICAGO, February 26, 2019—Chief Information Officers (CIOs) increasingly see IT moving from a 'cost center' to a'‘trust center' – even as the challenges they face abound, according to the 2019 CIO Survey from Grant Thornton LLP in partnership with the Technology Business Management (TBM) Council.

CIOs who participated in the survey reported that "creating and driving an IT strategy that aligns with overall business/agency objectives" is one of their top priorities –- second only to "ensuring that IT systems comply with security and regulatory requirements."

This focus on strategy is also evident in how CIOs see the institutional role of their IT teams. Of those surveyed:

  • Eighty-one percent believe "IT drives innovation or modernization programs."
  • Seventy-nine percent think "IT has a voice in business/agency strategy and strategic initiatives."
  • Sixty-six percent of CIOs say their performance should be measured based on "successful execution against strategy and plans."

 "The days of the CIO serving strictly as an IT operator are over," said LaVerne H. Council, national managing principal for Enterprise Technology Strategy and Innovation at Grant Thornton. "CIOs see themselves as trusted business partners, but the road ahead is not an easy one. CIOs should articulate the value of IT spend in the same terms measured by their business partners."

Demonstrating value will only grow harder in the face of the challenges that CIOs identified in the survey. Chief among these is "conflicting priorities among stakeholders" – followed by "recruiting and retaining talent," "aligning IT with business goals," "articulating the value of IT spend," and "stakeholders' resistance to change."

The road to becoming a trusted business partner

The clearest path forward for CIOs to become trusted business partners is to demonstrate that they can control costs and communicate IT value in a way that resonates with the business. Through technology business management (TBM), for example, leaders can help their C-suite peers understand how IT brings value to their organization.

"With TBM, CIOs and their teams use a data-driven financial framework to evaluate investment decisions using a common language that aligns IT spend to business value," said Todd Tucker, vice president and general manager of the TBM Council. "With this information, organizations can enable prioritization, optimize business costs and accelerate decision-making. In fact, 74 percent of survey respondents identified 'the ability to shift spending to innovation or growth as the most important benefit of TBM.'"

Shifting priorities

Finally, CIOs are shifting their priorities to meet emerging needs and address critical gaps, most notably:

  • Eighty-five percent are investing in automation software deployments over the next two years.
  • Eighty-three percent have increased spending on cybersecurity.
  • Only 30 percent are currently using data to "move from information to insight."
  • They believe the top barriers to addressing cybersecurity threats are "the increasing sophistication of threats," "emerging technologies," and "retaining top-tier talent."
  • They think artificial intelligence will be the most impactful area of IT over the next three to five years.

Grant Thornton and the TBM Council conducted the survey in fall 2018, based on responses from IT leaders in both commercial businesses and the public sector.

For additional findings from the 2019 CIO Survey, visit https://www.grantthornton.com/ciosurvey.

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