Today’s CIOs, by the numbers: 9 telling stats

How is the CIO role evolving? Are CIOs truly shaping digital strategy? Deloitte’s 2018 global CIO survey offers instructive data
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Crossing the gap to big data

CIOs remain hungry for real-life examples of digital transformation moves that worked – or didn’t. If you want the truth about the state of digital in today’s organizations, talk to the CIOs. Deloitte’s 2018 global CIO survey shares some interesting data points about that – plus a look at the evolving CIO role.

“The digital era has arrived at an opportune moment for CIOs looking to burnish their business credentials,” the report states.

Indeed, according to our research with Harvard Business Analytic services, digital businesses expect CIOs to drive new revenue and lead critical, cross-functional efforts when it’s time to transform a process or a business model.

[ Read our new report from HBR Analytic Services: Transformation Masters: The New Rules of CIO Leadership. ]

What does this look like on the ground right now? Let’s delve into Deloitte’s survey for some of the most interesting numbers:

Digital transformation realities

96 percent of executives say digital is a strategic business priority, according to the Deloitte survey. That’s not a surprise, right? (We’d like to meet the other four percent. Maybe their CEOs are stuck in a time warp.) But hang on:

Just 26 percent say their organization actually has an enterprise-wide digital strategy in place. That’s a huge gap between those that say digital is a strategic priority and those actually making good on that throughout the organization.

What’s the deal? We asked Kristi Lamar, managing director, Deloitte CIO Program, to explain the difference.

Are you just practicing "random acts of digital"?

“The gap is filled by organizations that have digital strategies or capabilities in pockets of the business – we often refer to this as ‘random acts of digital’ – but lack a truly enterprise-wide approach with a clear leader [or leaders],” Lamar says.

This might seem like bad news, but in reality, it represents the outsized opportunity for today’s CIO.

“CIOs can use this gap to their advantage in that they can step up to shape, define, and even lead the strategy and position themselves and their organization to lead the execution,” Lamar says. “It’s this exact type of business leadership that will enable CIOs to make the shift from trusted operator to instigate change and drive business partnership and value.”

Here’s one reason why this is so important:

40 percent of CIOs say they lead digital strategy in their organization. That’s great – but it means 60 percent do not. This is your chance, as Lamar puts it, to instigate change in how IT is perceived and in its strategic role in the company.

30 percent of those CIOs who don’t already lead digital strategy say they play the role of “partner” in their organization's digital efforts. That’s not a bad fallback position, but think about which role you really want.

On that note, some food for thought:

27 percent of CIOs who aren’t leading their firm’s digital strategy are still responsible for executing it. In other words: They’re responsible for executing someone else’s vision.

Shifting from a support role or “trusted operator” status into a bona fide leadership role will require a revision of the traditional IT leader skill set, one that’s already underway for forward-thinking CIOs. Soft skills have never been more important.


Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.