IBM’s Global C-Suite Study: The CIO Perspective

A report by the IBM Institute for Business Value has collected the insights of 1,805 CIOs globally on how they anticipate their businesses will thrive in what is being called the “age of disruption.” Especially by comparing the difference between top-performing “Torchbearer” organizations and low-performing “Market Followers,” the report distinguishes the steps your organization needs to take to proceed with confidence.

Disruption by Cross-Pollination

The Torchbearers are considered the organizations that lead in innovation and have the best financial records, and they account for only four percent of the businesses surveyed. The Market Followers, measuring a more sizable 35 percent of respondents, have less financial success and admitted lower market profile. In either case, CIOs understand that what works in one business sector could work or blend into another sector, and so applying and combining practices of various sectors into a single digital platform has become a major source of disruption.

Regarding the technologies CIOs most expect to change business, 71 percent cite mobile solutions, 66 percent cite cloud computing and services, and 61 percent cite the Internet of Things. The problem that IBM finds here is that these are all technologies that are basically already out there and proliferating. Perhaps not enough people are looking long-term enough to consider cognitive computing (40 percent) or “advanced manufacturing technologies” (21 percent), for instance. As for potential risks, a substantial 76 percent of CIOs cite IT security risks, versus regulatory compliance violations coming in at a meager 38 percent for second place.

How to Succeed in the Future

The three biggest areas for growth to remain current right now according to CIOs include building organizational intelligence and insight, front office digitization, and bolstering IT’s skills. Internal collaboration and restructuring IT fall a little lower as priorities, though they are still on the agenda. For an especially eye-opening stat, Torchbearer CIOs place 150 percent more emphasis on getting agile and reaching the market first than do Market Follower CIOs. Great CIOs furthermore rotate staff so that they develop skills as both project managers and business analysts, creating employees with a more expansive perspective. On that same note, IBM finds that the ability of businesses to partner with each other for new value creation is critical moving ahead. Of course, making such things possible requires an integration of disparate operating platforms, and so this will be a major challenge for all CIOs.

Learning Blind Spots

Only 36 percent of CIOs see the value of using customer feedback to identify new trends. Instead, they look to external thought leaders (61 percent) and market research firms (56 percent). A bigger net needs to be cast on market trends. Among other things, new delivery channels must be explored:

… Torchbearer CIOs are actively helping their organizations explore new delivery channels, as technological advances provide the tools to engage with customers more individually and contextually… Various companies are going mobile. Zalora, a Singapore-based online fashion retailer with operations across Southeast Asia, is a good example. In 2013, all its revenues came from consumers using desktop computers. This year, it estimates that about 50 percent of its revenues will come from mobile commerce.

IBM concludes that businesses should follow the example of torchbearer organizations in a few ways: They should build an informed and agile culture where progress occurs fast and yet manageably. They should listen carefully to external customer insight, but also explore the other available channels, and any data gathered should be shared with partnering companies. Lastly, businesses should invest further into analytics and into diversifying employees’ skill sets. These are the ways in which businesses and their IT organizations can sail smoothly into the future.

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