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ICT agility is out, business agility is in!

Louise Francis | Oct. 17, 2014
Conversations with executive peers should move from technology enablement, to how ICT can exploit business opportunities and respond to competitors, writes Louise Francis of IDC NZ.


Despite the rhetoric about the "I" in CIO standing for innovation, most New Zealand CIOs still see ICT as a business tool for operational efficiency and sustaining IT operations. In contrast, the rest of the C-suite already recognises ICT's critical role to differentiate and transform the business.

IDC's 2014 C-Suite Survey shows half of line of business (LOB) managers in New Zealand see ICT as an opportunity for business change such as new competitive business models or new markets (opportunists and creators), with an underlying theme of operational efficiency. In contrast, almost half of CIOs believe ICT's biggest role is operational efficiency and continuing the status quo as a business tool (optimisers and followers).

How CIOs perceive their organisations attitudes towards ICT has a strong influence on their approach to IT investment. Thus, CIOs must pay close attention to groups such as opportunists and creators, as these are the most likely to be advocates or adversaries to the IT department.

Within New Zealand organisations, attitudes towards ICT correspond strongly with several other investment behaviours. For example, organisations with high levels of opportunists and creators have higher ICT budget growth than other organisations and usually support a federated/distributed ICT investment approach rather than a centralised IT function. They also have a laser-like focus on the customer with a strong desire to understand changing customer consumption patterns.

IDC, on the other hand, sees a significant maturing of some CIOs' attitudes to collaborating with the business and approaching ICT investment from a business outcomes perspective. As a result, these CIOs are increasingly engaging with not only business leadership, but also with the boards on business transformation initiatives. For these CIOs, business cases and engagement are no longer structured around technology enablement and business as usual, but from how the business can use ICT to exploit business opportunities.

Too many CIOs, however, are still targeting operational efficiency and this is a real problem if the project sponsors or the board are in the "opportunist and creators" frame of mind. CIOs need to take a stocktake to determine whether their organisational groups are creators, opportunists, optimisers, disruptors or followers.. Then, consider the following steps:

Get on the same page as the rest of the business and the board. With the rise of the third platform (cloud, mobile, social and big data), there has been a radical power shift in ICT investment decisions. To remain relevant, conversations can no longer be about ICT agility, but about improving business agility through innovation and how ICT will be used to respond to competitors.

CIOs need to take a stocktake to determine whether their organisational groups are creators, opportunists, optimisers, disruptors or followers.


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