Are IT teams up to snuff when it comes to CIO expectations?

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Are C-suite executives satisfied with the pace of technological innovations in their businesses? Not so much, according to a recent survey of 250 business leaders conducted by the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network, and sponsored by Dimension Data.

While 93 percent of respondents say technology is becoming more important to their business, and 87 percent are either spending more time understanding new technology or "working on it," most were unhappy with the pace of innovation from their IT departments. Only 43 percent said those departments were doing a good job of innovating and becoming a more strategic business partner, while 52 percent said IT was either poor or just making progress in this area.

There's a message in these results, and CIOs had better pay attention, warns Donovan Neale-May executive director of BPI Network. In an interview with The Enterprisers Project, he explains why.

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): What are the most important lessons IT should take away from these survey results?

Neale-May: Fundamentally, what we're seeing is a much greater sensitivity to technology as a business value creator and a revenue generator or enabler. But they're not seeing IT take a leadership role in helping them transform their businesses.

TEP: Why do you think that isn't happening?

Neale-May: There's a tendency to be protective of turf, then there are centralized policies and practices. For data center professionals, innovating may mean having to reskill. It's painful. And many folks protect legacy environments because it provides job security for them. They don't necessarily want to get into new areas because that's not comfortable for them. CIOs need to look for ways to overcome this tendency and drive innovation in the organization.

TEP: Most organizations have had legacy technology for many years. Why is it becoming a problem now?

Neale-May: It's really all about data. The big question is, what's my data strategy? How do I make use of disparate data streams when there are more and more of them? The frustration business leaders have is that their infrastructures are dated. It's not that they don't have the data, it just isn't in a form where they can extract meaningful insights from it. So more companies are looking at outsourcing. More functional areas within the organization, marketing included, are looking at hosted solutions, or at running their own data through third parties and extracting usable insights.

IT departments are in a situation where they've got to start to map their transformation journey. They have to be clear on what new applications can be built, and wean themselves off that legacy infrastructure. They've got to update, and embrace open source solutions.

Progressive minds will have to lead the charge here, because otherwise they're in a disintermediation situation. Today we're seeing Chief Data Officers, Chief Experience Officers, Chief Relationship Officers, and Chief Revenue Officers. Other people are coming in and taking pieces of what used to be IT's responsibility.

On the other hand, many CIOs do hold innovation as one of their areas of responsibility. That's the opportunity for many CIOs to really take ownership of innovation. Because technology is driving it.


Donovan Neale-May is the founder and executive director of the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network, a global community of chief innovation officers and functional change agents dedicated to identifying, exploring and sharing emerging trends and transformational ideas and practices that are reshaping world markets and competitive landscapes. He is also the founder and executive director of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, a global affinity network of nearly 10,000 senior marketing and branding executives in 110 countries, who collectively control over $450 billion in annual marketing spend.

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.