Storm clouds with silver linings ahead for CIOs

Storm clouds with silver linings ahead for CIOs

While controlling cost is the top focus this year, innovation will take centre stage in three years.

The global economic outlook may look grim, however even storm clouds have silver linings, says Andy Rowsell-Jones, vice president and research director at analyst firm Gartner. “The good news for CIOs this year is that labour costs and hardware costs will go down,” says Jones. “And CIOs might actually get to spend all the capital budget they’ve been allocated.”

Highlighting results from a Gartner study conducted in Q4 last year, which surveyed more than 1500 enterprises across the globe, Rowsell-Jones says enterprises in 2009 would focus most on using IT to improve business processes, reduce costs and improve workforce effectiveness.

“CIOs should attempt to take greater control over the company’s governance and prioritisation process; any projects that will take more than 10 days to implement should be reconsidered,” says Rowsell-Jones. “It’s a good year for throwing out the garbage.

“Ultimately, CIOs need to convince their team they’ll come out stronger from this recession,” he says.

The survey results indicate the 2009 budgets will be nominal, with a minimal 0.2 per cent or flat on the average. If your budget is unchanged from last year, you are in good company, he states.

For this year, respondents indicated that CIOs’ top strategies reflect the need to reduce cost and improve performance. Utilising a three-year time frame, the survey asked what respondents expect with future strategies.

Responses indicated CIOs are optimistic that innovation, relegated to sixth place in the latest survey, will rise to the number-one business priority.

However, business intelligence is again the priority technology project - as it has been since 2006.

Rowsell-Jones says investment in business intelligence applications and information consolidation will raise enterprise visibility and transparency, particularly around sales and operational performance. As well, these investments are expected to pay dividends in responding to new regulatory and financial reporting requirements.

Stressing the importance of sound leadership in times of financial gloom, Rowsell-Jones cautioned IT leaders against downsizing the IT team, despite the pressure to cut costs.

“You don’t just get rid of the team, you have to think of the future innovation process. Cutting the team now might hinder the company’s future expansion into new geographies.”

CIOs say they face the need to upgrade IT skills across all of their key roles over the next three years. From more than 20 areas, they choose the following five criteria as the most important skills required: Business intelligence, enterprise architecture, business process improvement, business relationship management and sourcing and vendor management.

Citing social networks and developer conferences as two areas CIOs should consider, in order to stimulate the innovation process in 2009, Rowsell-Jones also says that often the people with the best ideas were usually too junior to have a say in the final outcome. These individuals should not be ignored.

“Give your people very clear directions. The killer application for 2009 does not cost you anything at all – it is good leadership,” he says.

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Tags CIO roleeconomic crisis

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