Digital technologies are the top priorities for 2013

Gartner survey highlights the need for CIOs to set aside old rules and adopt new tools.

Enterprises realise on average only 43 percent of technology's business potential, according to a global survey of CIOs by research firm Gartner. That number has to grow for IT to remain relevant in an increasingly digital world, the company says. The Gartner Executive Programmes report, "Hunting and Harvesting in a Digital World: The 2013 CIO Agenda," suggests that over the last 18 months, digital technologies — including mobile, analytics, big data, social and cloud — have reached a tipping point with business executives. Gartner analysts say there is no choice but to increase technology's potential in the enterprise, and this means evolving IT's strategies, priorities and plans beyond tending to the usual concerns as CIOs expect their 2013 IT budgets to be essentially flat for the fifth straight year.

"Digital technologies provide a platform to achieve results, but only if CIOs adopt new roles and behaviours to find digital value," said Gartner group vice president Mark McDonald. "CIOs require a new agenda that incorporates hunting for new digital innovations and opportunities, and harvesting value from products, services and operations."

The survey showed that CIO IT budgets have been flat to negative ever since the dot-com bust of 2002. For 2013, CIO IT budgets are projected to be slightly down, with a weighted global average decline of 0.5 percent.

Digital technologies dominate CIO technology priorities for 2013 according to the report. The top 10 global technology priorities revealed by the survey reflect a greater emphasis on externally oriented digital technologies, as opposed to traditional IT/operationally oriented systems.

Top 10 CIO Business and Technology Priorities in 2013

Business PrioritiesRankTechnology PrioritiesRank
Increasing enterprise growth1Analytics and business intelligence1
Delivering operational results2Mobile technologies2
Reducing enterprise costs3Cloud computing (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS)3
Attracting and retaining new customers4Collaboration technologies (workflow)4
Improving IT applications and infrastructure5Legacy modernization5
Creating new products and services (innovation)6IT management6
Improving efficiency7CRM7
Attracting and retaining the workforce8Virtualization8
Implementing analytics and big data9Security9
Expanding into new markets and geographies10ERP Applications10

Source: Gartner Executive Programmes (January 2013)

CIOs see these technologies as disrupting business fundamentally over the next 10 years. When asked which digital technologies would be most disruptive, 70 percent of CIOs cited mobile technologies, followed by big data/analytics at 55 percent, social media at 54 percent and public cloud at 51 percent. The disruptiveness of each of these technologies is real, but CIOs see their greatest disruptive power coming in combination, rather than in isolation.

"As CIOs continue to amplify the enterprise with digital technologies while improving IT organisational structure, management and governance, 2013 promises to be a year of dual priorities," said Dave Aron, Gartner vice president. "Key CIO strategies identified in the survey reflect the realities of these dual business priorities and confirm the need to expand IT's ability to hunt for new opportunities and harvest current business value. While CIOs recognise that IT's value contribution comes from delivering business solutions, they also recognise that the prioritisation and delivery of specific results must change."

As needs and opportunities evolve, more CIOs will find themselves leading in areas outside of traditional IT. In addition to their tending role, they are starting to assume responsibility for hunting for digital opportunities and harvesting value. Sixty-seven percent of CIOs surveyed have significant leadership responsibilities outside of IT, with only 33 percent having no other such responsibilities. This situation contrasts sharply with 2008, when almost half of CIOs had no responsibilities outside of IT. Almost a fifth of CIOs now act as their enterprise's chief digital officer (CDO), leading digital commerce and channels. Although this nascent role varies in scope and style, it normally includes championing the digital vision for the business — that is, ensuring that the business is evolving optimally in the new digital context.

"IT cannot expect to secure additional funding without assuming new responsibilities or producing new results," said Aron. "Reacting to limited budgets by restructuring costs, outsourcing and doing more with less made sense from 2002 to 2011, when the supply of innovative technologies was scarce. Adapting to, and leading, in the digital world requires doing things differently, yet in ways consistent with the demands of digital technologies. CIOs need to make the case that mainstream emerging mobile, big data, social and cloud technologies justify revisiting IT budget and investment levels."

The worldwide survey was conducted in the fourth quarter in 2012 and included 2053 CIOs, representing more than US$230 billion in CIO IT budgets and covering 36 industries in 41 countries.