Shadow IT inspires a renaissance for CIOs

CIOs are finding new ways to add value to their organisations 

Chief information officers (CIOs) have an unprecedented opportunity to take a leading role in their organisations, thanks in part to the rise of “shadow IT”. That’s one of the paradoxical findings of a new global study published today by BT, based on a survey of almost 1,000 senior IT decision makers in eight regions worldwide.

“Shadow IT” is the name given to the growing practice of departments, such as finance or marketing, buying their own IT solutions. According to the study, Art of Connecting: creativity and the modern CIO, the practice is now common, with 76 per cent of CIOs seeing it within their organisations. On average, shadow IT now accounts for a quarter of an organisation’s IT spend.

The growing confidence of departments in buying their own IT solutions is shifting the CIO’s focus away from hands-on support to a more strategic role centred on advice, governance and security. Indeed, CIOs are now spending 20 per cent more time and substantial additional budget on security as a result of shadow IT.

Despite worries about a loss of control and sizeable reductions to their overall budgets, the changes driven by shadow IT give CIOs a unique opportunity to evolve their role.

Luis Alvarez, chief executive officer, BT Global Services, said: “CIOs are perfectly placed to nurture creative uses of technology throughout their organisations while keeping a strategic view. Indeed, our research shows that the board expects nothing less.”
Almost six-in-ten respondents say that the CIO now has a much more central role in the boardroom compared with two years ago. And 68 per cent believe that their board’s expectations of them has increased substantially during the same period.

This is reflected in the types of key performance indicators (KPIs) that CIOs are now accountable for. Whereas a traditional CIO would have been judged largely on IT metrics, 81 per cent say they now own more business than technology KPIs.

Aligned to this, 64 per cent of respondents believe their board now recognises the need for a much more creative CIO, one that can operate across the organisation, orchestrating technology and skills to deliver departmental or strategic business outcomes. It’s a change that the majority of CIOs positively embrace; with 69 per cent saying the ability to be more innovative and creative is the biggest plus of their job.

Craig Charlton, chief information officer, De Beers, said: “Creativity comes from really understanding your business issues, really understanding technology and being able to put those two things together. It’s the fusion of a pressing business problem with a good command of what technology can do that leads to great ideas. And without creativity, you will end up with a role focused on transactional services and traditional IT, rather than looking to the future.”

CIOs view mobility (73 per cent), unified communications (72 per cent) and cloud (71 per cent) as the technologies that can most help in unlocking their creativity. And in a win-win, these are also identified as being most critical to delivering commercial results. So the more CIOs are creative in their use of mobility, cloud and unified communications, the more likely they are to meet the expectations of their board.

Luis Alvarez said: “I’ve been a CIO and to me it feels as if we’re on the verge of a renaissance of the profession with greater opportunities than ever before. In this new environment, CIOs who can adopt a creative, imaginative and visionary mind-set, and look more to their IT partners for innovation and fresh thinking, will thrive.”

Dave Aron, Gartner Fellow, et al.1, wrote: “Digitalisation is no longer a sideshow — it has moved to centre stage and is changing the whole game. CIOs have a unique opportunity to take a strong digital leadership role in the transformation of their businesses. Seizing this opportunity requires flipping long-held behaviours and beliefs.”


Notes to editors

1 Gartner, Flipping to Digital Leadership: The 2015 CIO Agenda, 04 October 2014, Dave Aron et al.

About the research
“Art of Connecting: creativity and the modern CIO” is based on a survey of 955 senior IT decision makers in the USA, UK, Germany, Brazil, Spain, Australia, Benelux and Singapore. The survey was conducted during November 2014 by independent market researcher Vanson Bourne. “Art of Connecting: creativity and the modern CIO” can be downloaded at www.bt.com/creative-cio.