Largest-ever IT leadership study shows CIO’s growing strategic influence

in Advisory, 09.06.2017

Turbulent times see technology leaders get to grips with digital by focusing on consistency and stability as well as fostering innovation. Meanwhile, more CEOs and boards are turning to their CIOs for help in navigating the uncertainties, threats and opportunities in todays’ digital world.

CIOs are used to change. But in this year’s CIO Survey technology leaders are telling us that change has reached unprecedented levels, and it’s increasingly coming from unexpected corners.

Despite two-thirds (64 percent) of organizations adapting their technology strategy because of global political and economic uncertainty, 89 percent are maintaining or ramping up investment in innovation, including in digital labor. More than half (52 percent) are investing in more nimble technology platforms to help their organization innovate and adapt.

The Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey shines light on these important changes. Presenting the views of 4,498 technology executives – it’s the largest IT leadership survey ever undertaken. From board priorities to business relationships to careers, the survey provides critical insights and guidance in five key areas:

1. CIO operational priorities

Turbulent times call for technology leaders to increase focus on delivering consistency and stability. And their influence grows.

  • Stability is back on the agenda. Digital strategies have been embraced by businesses at an entirely new level. Yet, as far as operational priorities are concerned, consistent and stable IT rocketed to the top of the priority list.
  • CIO strategic influence continues to grow. In recent years, the CIO has progressively become more influential. This year, more than seven in ten respondents report that CIO influence is increasing. In 2005, barely 38 percent of CIOs sat on their executive committee; today that figure has risen to 62 percent. IT leaders are also increasingly working at board level. More than three-quarters attended a board meeting within the last 12 months.

2. Dealing with digital

More organizations have digital strategies than ever before, but how successfully are they being with digital?

  • A quarter now have a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) After a lull last year, CDO roles are being filled in ever-greater numbers. There are now three times as many CDOs around as there were three years ago. More than half of the largest companies now have a CDO in place while only a fifth of those with IT budgets of less than $50m have taken the plunge.
  • Relentless rise in cyber-attacks. Only one in five respondents feel they’re prepared to respond to cyber-attacks. Last year, respondents told us that organized cybercrime was their top concern, followed by the amateur hackers. This year, more people are reporting trouble from ‘insiders’. Almost a third reported having been subject to a major security incident in the past 24 months. More than half of the larger companies suffering recent attacks.

3. People skills and talent

The skills shortage continues, and growth in the number of female IT leaders’ stalls.

  • Skills shortages as usual. Big data/analytics, business analysis and enterprise architecture are the most in-demand skills. This year, architecture staged a comeback after several years of decline. Could this demand be related to the increasingly complex project landscape that many organizations find themselves grappling with?
  • Female CIOs receive salary boost. 10 percent more than male CIOs in the last year (42 percent and 32 percent). But the number of women in IT leadership remains low at 9 percent this year.

4. Managing the technology function

From automation to robotics, from outsourcing to cloud, how are technology functions changing?

  • Projects are as difficult as ever. Two thirds of CIOs say IT projects are more complex than they were 5 years ago. Over a quarter say that a lack of project talent is the cause of project failure, but project management skills are absent from the CIOs top list of technology skills, a staggering drop of 19 percent compared to last year.
  • Cloud technology gets top marks. Larger organizations focus more on the benefit of cost savings and the improved responsiveness from cloud technologies. Smaller companies report that they love stability and simplicity, and value the scalability of their cloud solutions.
  • Are the robots coming? IT leaders are starting to make significant investments in this area and a quarter of respondents are seeing very effective results. Technologies such as cognitive automation, together with both basic and advanced robotic process automation, seem to be areas where increasing numbers of organizations are investing.
  • Outsourcing remains high on everyone’s agenda. About half of our respondents plan to increase their outsourcing commitment while around four in ten look to offshoring – a trend that has been largely unchanged in recent years. IT leaders want to free up their own resources, gain access to new skills and save themselves some money. Hot outsourcing areas include application development, followed by infrastructure and software maintenance.

5. CIO careers

What are the career plans and aspirations from IT leaders across the world?

  • CIOs love their jobs! CIOs who are ‘very fulfilled’ in their role is at a three-year high. And there are plenty of good reasons for this. More than eight out of ten IT leaders are seeing stable or growing budgets. Those on the executive committee seem to be the happiest – strategic influence certainly seems to help.

The 5 key areas at a glance

(Source: CIO Survey 2017, click here to enlarge the infographic)


Whilst the future is difficult to predict, what is very clear is that many technology executives are turning uncertainty into opportunity. Digital transformation starts with a board-driven, enterprise-wide digital vision and strategies and requires substantial technology enablement to bring it to fruition. CIOs and the IT function must continue to play a key role in delivering technology-enabled innovation and adopt a more aggressive approach to engage business stakeholders to help make it happen.

About the survey

The 2017 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey is the largest IT leadership survey in the world in terms of number of respondents. For almost two decades it has covered the issues that matter to technology leaders: from board priorities, to technology strategy, to careers. The survey of 4,498 CIOs and technology leaders was conducted between 19 December 2016 and 3 April 2017, across 86 countries.



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