CIO Priorities for the Next 3 Years


In my last post, I was examining The Evolution of Today’s CIO and What kind of CIO’s will transform businesses?, and how it has morphed into a more strategic, business-driven role than ever before—one that directly affects top-line business goals. Today, I want to dig deeper into what this means for the future of corporate IT. Regardless of CIO Profile (i.e., Optimizer, Transformative or Innovative), what will CIO’s priorities be over the next three years?

My prediction is that by 2015, there will be a groundswell of CIOs that will have morphed into “strategy athletes;” that is, a stronger/faster/savvier version of today's CIO. We’ll see more CIOs who are entrepreneurial, adapting to and initiating major business shifts, and carrying equal responsibility with the CEO. These executives will no longer be measured primarily by the scope of their innovation; they will also be held responsible for the same financial metrics of the other C-level execs. That isn’t to say that all will suddenly convert over into a Transformative CIO or even that it required for all either. But I do think that there will be a majority that will move into this space. Not because of desire but out of need.

Converging Priorities

When we look at this there are two angles we need to come from. First the higher level strategic themes and objectives. This is where you will see soft or intangible goals that are meant to span across the entire enterprise and to last for more than one year. The second type of priority is the actionable tactical priorities and much more tangible goals and objectives. These tend to occur within a fiscal year and have very concrete success criteria.



Looking at the strategic priorities I see a convergence of IT and business strategy that means both the growth and innovation will be at the forefront of business decision making—but will the CEO and CIO be on the same page? According to IBM’s CIO study, The Essential CIO, it’s highly likely.



The IBM report, based on face-to-face conversations with more than 3,000 CIOs worldwide, found that the three key business issues that will be top-of-mind for both the CEO and the CIO in the coming years will be data (BI and analytics), people skills to manage growing organizational complexity, and client relationships.

As far for the second level of tactical priorities, there is variability in what I see as far as percentages on the predictions however the themes still stay the same. I would suspect that this is due in part by specific industry segments, their market needs and regulation.

So for these yearly priorities how do these joint CEO/CIO business priorities sync with CIO technology priorities? Will the core CIO agenda go out the window? Hardly. According to Gartner’s 2012 CIO Survey, CIOs have reported that they expect to spent 46% more over last year, and 61% plan to improve their companies’ mobile functions. The top technology priority, BI and analytics, is right in line with the business priorities, and mobile and virtualization (cloud) rank 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

The respondents to a 2012 IDG CIO survey had a slightly more focused take: Nearly 40% indicated that cloud services would take top priority moving forward. And the IBM group? They put data, mobility, and the cloud at the top of their lists.


CIO Priority Projection

So what does this mean for the prioritization of IT spend between now and 2015? Well there is a lot of data out there with different priorities and subsequent rankings. There are three priorities that do surface to the top every time though. Those common priorities include:

  • Cloud – The cloud has finally emerged from the 2011 purgatory of supplier propaganda, and is now being taken seriously—very seriously—by CIOs around the globe. It’s proven to be a game-changer, making competitive advantage more easily attainable for organizations regardless of size.
  • Information – Once a very stale topic, BI is now going through a resurgence thanks to new technology innovation like cloud and social. We are seeing the legacy reporting and analytics morph into Big Data and Collaborative BI. These new trends are helping companies build better customer relationships, and drive new business. According to Gartner fellow Dave Aron, “It is about more data, faster data, and the ability to crunch it in faster time.” These new technology enablers are allowing this to occur.
  • Mobility – In order to maintain a growth trajectory regardless of economic climate, more and more businesses have realized that having an employee base that can work from anywhere is key. Laptops, smart phones, and tablet devices have become the new standard equipment for organizations focusing on growth and innovation.

And since we’re on the subject, it seems like just about everybody is thinking about the cloud to some extent these days. It started out as a rather enigmatic concept, and was a catalyst for many a heated discussion in the industry as it emerged in the late 1990s. Now that the technology is becoming more ubiquitous, the benefits of economy, scalability, and administration are more clear and concrete. And as we’ve seen from the research, it’s garnered a position of top priority with technical decision makers.

With more and more CIOs now ready, willing, and able to invest in the cloud, my next post will look at the strategies around cloud implementation, and how to make true value-driven investments in the cloud to support strategic business goals.


0 thoughts on “CIO Priorities for the Next 3 Years”

  1. Mike – Great article. I wanted to add a couple of thoughts based on my experience working with CIOs and people who are charted with moving the organizations in the direction that you indicated.
    What I have seen is that it is easier for a CIO to agree to and present the senior leadership a strategic IT direction for an organization than to actually agree upon the 1st and 2nd year of the roadmap to get to that direction and stay the course intelligently. I feel that at some level the IT executives still feel that their true successes come only from the tactical wins irrespective of how it is or not aligned to the agreed upon strategic direction. The oft used refrain is, “we want to do the right thing but this is what the business needs and we need to give it or become irrelevant”. It it works out strategically then great if not, we will figure how to solve that part later.
    I agree that if you cannot solve the business’ today’s problems IT (or you) will become irrelevant and it would be of no use to have the long term direction when you aren’t around to execute it. To do it purely for chalking up a win is also counter productive. It is for this reason I feel that the CIOs and IT leaders of today have to change from being an optimizer alone to one who is aggressively and intelligently “stractical”, a term that I coined to indicate tactically needed actions that align or drive the organization towards it the stated strategic direction.
    Here is where I feel that lead EAs, Chief Architects and technology/strategists have the most important role to play. It is upon these folks to work with the right CIO and business leaders to thread the day to day activities conducted for tactical needs to growing towards and meeting the strategic goals. It means going with a plan beyond the big picture to the CIO and business sponsor and winning them on investing in solving the right day to day problems and helping them own that decision publicly.
    The architects have to develop the art of negotiating with the various players. It is this skill that will make them the CIOs of the future. Let take a real life example, if one of the sales teams in the organization insists on getting another instance of CRM which they can instantiate in 90 days as against reengineering an existing instance which might take 180 days, what should the Enterprise or Chief Architect do? In this case, what the chief architect didn’t do was go out there and beat up on the business on why it was a bad idea nor did he go out there and give up grudgingly giving EA a bad name in both cases.
    The CA first ensured that the sales head knew what the strategic direction was and reaffirmed the buy in from this senior leader that it was the right thing to do. After empathizing with the SL, the CA first made a case on why it is worthwhile to take the 210 days to do it correctly and how the team might in the interim be productive still. That didn’t work and so instead of giving up or raising hell that will isolate architecture, the CA then brought together the business SMEs, the SL and had a workshop. The sales team attended it out of obligation for saying no. In this workshop the CA explained in business terms how data architecture and enterprise information modeling is important for the company to deliver the value chain across the 9 business units from a sales perspective and why it is important to invest in a data architecture summit and council.
    In a trade off the business agreed to support funding for and assign resources to the information architecture initiative. The CA immediately announced this to the Senior Leadership, hailed and thanked the sales leader for furthering the strategic direction. The CA knew that one of the natural outcomes of the data architecture initiative is that the data stewards will ask agressively ask for the single CRM in the next budgetary cycle. What I intend to communicate from this example is that for the CIOs to become what you are indicating in your post the enteprise and chief architects have to evolve beyond the things they do today like standards, nice pictures for walls, great solution architectures for enterprise applications. They have do the traditional activities and then more by tranforming into artful negotiators who further the strategic vision aggressively. Knowing that most organizations in the world are not the Microsofts, Home Depots, Oracles but smaller organizations whose revenue ranges from $500M to $5B, this skill becomes extremely critical to keep the relevance of EA in organizations real and not one thing the CIO has to check off in his list without which he will not look “cool”.
    I will probably post this in LinkedIn too. Do let know what you think.


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