How to Meet the Needs of CIOs

By Geoffrey James

Want to know what CIOs will be thinking about in 2006? Well, you’re in luck. Gartner, the world’s largest high tech market research organization, recently surveyed 1,400 CIOs employing an average of 300 IT professionals with an average IT budget of $71 million – the people most likely to make big software purchases. Here’s the topline (more detail in the next newsletter)??:

CIOs see themselves facing three critical challenges in 2006:

1. Strengthening the “information value chain.” Two-thirds of CIOs believe that their competitors make better use of information, creating better opportunities for their IT groups. (Some of this is “ The grass is always greener” thought, but that’s the way CIOs are thinking.) To strengthen the information value chain, CIOs plan to make their communication and collaboration more dynamic, based on ongoing business needs rather than on annual planning cycles.

2. Building IT business skills. CIOs see the skills of IT professionals becoming the differentiating factor for IT groups as technologies continue to become more like commodities. The gap in skills is considerable, with seven out of ten CIOs recognizing the need to build new business skills (as opposed to technical skills) within IT to deliver business results. Therefore, CIOs will have an increased demand for management disciplines such as relationship and sourcing, process design and information design.

3. Getting closer to customers. Two out of three CIOs still see the operational side of the business as a barrier to IT increasing its business contribution (i.e., the line managers won’t let the IT group help). Effective CIOs and IT organizations work within the context of the rest of the company in order to get results. CIOs believe that companies looking to grow market share should be investing in IT in order to use information better, to make companies distinct from the competition, and to attract and retain customers. The CIO’s goal is to grow the IT contribution in 2006 by changing the conversation between IT and the business from one based on "what can IT do for me?" to "how will we solve the problem together?"

According to Gartner, those CIOs want better business relationships within their firms, want to report directly to the CEO, and want to play a greater role in strategy formulation and major decisions. To help CIOs achieve this in 2006, software vendors should:

– Provide better services for customers and the "front office." Generating growth from the core of the business is the greatest challenge facing executives. CIOs will want to get involved earlier in product development and launch processes, and increase their direct experience with customers. If you want to make yourself and your software more valued, you’ll need to help CIOs and IT leaders understand the customer context and how the information and business tools that you provide can address more customer needs.

– Build business awareness and skills across the IT organization. CIOs have a daunting challenge of making IT services and technology more relevant to the rest of their company. To help them do this, you’ll need to be able to articulate clearly the business relevance of what you have to offer and to help the CIO communicate the value to the rest of the company.

– Identify opportunities to use information more effectively. CIOs are well aware that most companies are awash with information, much of which never gets used effectively. Because of this, CIOs will be looking to enhance the value and quality of information flowing through their company systems and processes. Therefore, you’ll want to help CIOs improve the use of existing information to assess and understand customer needs.

– Remain vigilant on enterprise security and risk management. Security and risk are now assumed to be part of the responsibility of the CIO and IT. Over the next year, they’ll continue to invest in processes, people and tools to protect their brands and their business. You need to be certain that your software and services build confidence within the CIO’s company and thus enhance the CIO’s overall credibility.