MSP Today Expert Feature
May 06, 2014

CIOs Face Many Obstacles Between IT and the Rest of the Enterprise

The role of CIO is a relatively new one for the enterprise, and one that has been evolving in scope since its inception. It’s a challenging position for any individual, particularly as we realize that despite many advances, IT departments continue to remain relatively siloed from business operations.

CIOs aim to bridge this gap, and they’ve been doing a fair job of it according to a new survey from Red Hat (News - Alert), in conjunction with IDG. The companies polled 100 individuals at or above the IT director level, at organizations with 1,000 or more employees. The findings show that there are a number of obstacles that need to be overcome before CIOs can successfully fulfill their roles within the enterprise.

One of the most important findings of the survey relates to the very nature of the position of CIO. Too many top-level IT executives spend a majority of their time “keeping the lights on,” or in other words, being consumed by the day-to-day demands of regular IT operations and system performance. And while these executives also spend a significant amount of time focused on business goals and initiatives, a majority indicated they would like to spend more time contributing to business strategy as they move forward.

Survey respondents also indicated they would like to focus on identifying opportunities for competitive differentiation as well as cultivating better IT/business relations moving forward. Other areas of interest include driving business innovation, aligning IT initiatives with business goals and developing and fine-tuning business strategies.

Another major obstacle for CIOs is their budget size, with 57 percent of those surveyed describing their budgets as “fair” or “poor.” That leaves little funding for innovation or the chance to contribute to overall business goals in a significant way. Staffing levels are also a challenge, with 62 percent of respondents complaining their numbers were insufficient.

Contributing to high-level business strategies is also difficult when a majority of IT departments aren’t viewed as business partners or game changers by the rest of the decision makers. In fact, only 10 percent of those surveyed said they were perceived as “business peers” by the rest of their organization.

And 30 percent of respondents believe IT departments are viewed as mere “cost centers,” with the majority of new IT projects being generated by other departments approaching them, at 77 percent, versus originating with IT, at 68 percent. Collaboration between IT and other business areas was also pretty dismal, happening only 16 percent of the time in reference to new projects and opportunities for innovation.

The good news is that CIOs have an opportunity to change the overall game and Red Hat has published a whitepaper offering suggestions to evolve the role of top IT executives. By understanding business operations and objectives as completely as their peers from other departments, CIOs can level the playing field and alter perceptions of IT. Similarly, top IT execs can act as “technology translators” to other areas of business, explaining the ways in which IT can lead to efficiencies and cost savings.

Another trend that is already underway is to shift the burden of day-to-day tactical activities to MSPs and third-party cloud providers, freeing up IT staff to focus on innovation and core business objectives. Finally, CIOs will need to lead a cultural change to truly alter perceptions of IT, walking the halls of the enterprise and actively forging relationships with other key decision makers. Breaking down the silos between IT and the rest of the enterprise is possible, and CIOs have it in their power to change the face of the game.

NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle will be on hand at ITEXPO Las Vegas to discuss the challenges of today’s multi-faceted CIO in person.

Edited by Maurice Nagle