Study Outlines Expansion of CIO Role and Tech and Business Initiatives Expected to Drive IT Investment

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IDG’s recent ‘2021 State of the CIO’ report defines a new post-pandemic ‘tech landscape’ where, due to the impact of COVID-19, 82% of CIOs say that they have implemented new technologies, IT strategies and/or methodologies.

To support these implementations during this time, 37% of organisations increased their IT budget; 36% said they made no changes to their IT budget; and 27% made IT budget cuts. Asked to evaluate the success of these budget changes, 42% said their budget changes were on target and 25% said it is too early to tell.

Despite significant economic challenges, technology has proved to be essential to organisational growth, and that will continue in 2021. 49% of CIOs anticipate their tech budget will increase over the next 12 months, 39% expect budgets to remain the same, and only 12% expect their budgets to decrease. While not as bullish as the ‘2020 State of the CIO’ results, where 59% of CIOs expected their tech budgets to increase, the future of tech investments is much brighter than responses in April 2020 where only 25% of IT leaders expected budget growth.

“2020 presented companies with a variety of challenges, from the transition of employees to a work from home set-up, to finding alternative ways to engage with clients, and even disruption of entire industries,” said Sue Yanovitch, VP of Marketing at IDG. “The need for business transformation was accelerated by the pandemic and CIOs and their teams lead the charge in implementing new automation tools, customer experience technologies, and security solutions. This work, and levels of investment will continue into 2021.”

Business & Technology Initiatives for 2021

The business initiatives that are expected to drive the most IT investment in the upcoming year include transforming existing business processes, increasing cybersecurity protections, and improving the customer experience. These also top the list of business initiatives that increased in priority over the past 6-12 months due to socio-economic pressures. Others that increased in priority are improving employee productivity (49%) and establishing and supporting a more diverse and inclusive IT culture to enhance and broaden innovation initiatives (39%).

In order for these business plans to come to fruition, organisations are strategically adopting and implementing new technologies. Technology initiatives that will drive the most IT investment include data/business analytics tools, security/risk management, cloud-based enterprise applications, customer experience technologies and machine learning/artificial intelligence tools. Specifically focused on improving the customer experience, organisations hope to utilise technology to provide alternatives to face-to-face communication (65%); adapt products and services to meet changing demands (47%); and deliver products and services in new ways (45%).

CIOs Embrace Traditional & Modern Roles

While pioneering these business and tech initiatives, CIOs are focusing their time on security management (44%); improving IT operations/systems performance (41%); and aligning IT initiatives with business goals (40%). Additionally, 96% say that their role is expanding beyond traditional IT responsibilities including cybersecurity (57%); data analysis (47%); data privacy/compliance (44%); customer experience (39%); and business development (35%). As their role expands outside of conventional IT tasks, 68% of CIOs say that the creation of new revenue-generating initiatives is among their job responsibilities. In order to support the creation of new products and services to become more revenue-driven, organisations are automating business and/or IT processes, creating teams focused on innovation, and interacting directly with customers.

Over the past 6-12 months, these initiatives have seen a positive shift in priority with 81% saying that automating business and/or IT processes has increased in importance, followed by interacting directly with customers (78%), developing a customer journey (75%), and creating more diverse and inclusive tech teams (71%). Additionally, 77% of CIOs feel that their organisation understands that the rate of innovation increases if diversity and inclusion is embedded into technology teams and it is important to note that CIOs are not taking this lightly. 72% say they’re making diversity and inclusion a priority during the IT hiring process, increasing to 81% for enterprise and 79% for healthcare organisations.