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The changing role of the CIO

Too much information: utilising big data productively is one of the challenges for today's CIOs

Harvey Nash recently released its CIO Survey for 2016. This is interesting because it surveys 3,352 IT leaders from 82 countries that have a collective budget of more than $200 billion, providing an insight into the changing role of IT leadership. In this article I explore some of the more interesting statistics and outline suggestions as to what this might mean for Bermudian-based organisations.

I have often spoken about how important it is for IT to be recognised and used as a strategic asset. This point is becoming more relevant now with 40 per cent of IT leaders spending at least a day a week outside of IT. There has also been a change in CEO focus in prioritising IT projects that make money (63 per cent) rather than save money. Increasingly, IT is seen as an area that can promote innovation (likely linked to the increasing importance of digital to businesses).

IT a profit — as opposed to savings — generator

Bermudian-based organisations and IT leaders need to embrace interaction with leaders outside of IT, and help to ensure that the IT function is providing value, which is appropriate to your organisation. The conversation between CEO and CIO is increasingly likely to be about IT as a profit — as opposed to savings — generator.

Many companies in Bermuda don’t have a local IT leader, choosing instead to base their IT elsewhere, or increasingly selecting a more flexible co-sourcing solution. In such cases the initiative may need to be taken in Bermuda to deepen understanding of the company’s Bermuda operations.

Bermudian-based IT leaders should ensure that you’re engaging with other parts of the business no matter if they’re based on the next desk or in another country.

People and resources still provide a considerable challenge for IT leaders: 65 per cent of IT leaders reveal that they don’t have enough resources (up from 59 per cent in 2015), meaning that they are increasingly looking for more flexible resourcing and co-sourcing solutions to help them magnify their resources. More than 50 per cent of CIOs will increase investment in this area this year.

Effective co-sourcing partnerships

Bermuda has an increasingly tech-savvy workforce from which to choose, meaning that “growing your own” is more of an option than it has been in the past. Bermudian-based organisations have often formed co-sourcing partnerships in the past, and I believe will continue to do so, allowing them the best of both worlds — tech savvy employees for the right roles and co-sourcing partners where additional flexibility is required.

The importance of having a digital strategy to help your organisation take advantage of the digital economy and digital disruption continues to increase. Thirty-five per cent of IT leaders have now developed an enterprise-wide digital strategy, putting those organisations in a better position to both plan and react to opportunities in the digital economy.

The first Bermudian-based unicorn?

Opportunities exist for Bermuda in the digital economy, both for start-ups but also for larger financial services companies too. Bermudian business people typically travel internationally, which gives them insights into opportunities for digital disruption that may not be recognised by others. Creating a digital strategy provides a “clothes horse” to hang such initiatives on and clearly communicate your intentions within the organisation.

I personally look forward to seeing the first Bermudian-based unicorn (a start-up company that is valued at $1 billion or more). Far-fetched as that might sound, the founder of such a company might at this very moment be working evenings and weekends developing their idea!

The upside of digital is the enormous opportunity but unsurprisingly the downside risk of cyberattack remains on the minds of IT leaders. Twenty-eight per cent of those leaders have had to respond to a major IT security threat or cyberattack recently. But only 22 per cent of IT leaders being very confident that they have these risks covered.

Milliseconds away from disruption

It can be a challenge for some Bermudian-based companies to appreciate that — even though they’re based on a beautiful island in the middle of the Atlantic — their organisation faces the same risks as one based in Manhattan. Despite its physical remoteness, a computer based in Bermuda is less than half a second away from almost anywhere on the planet, with New York only 14 milliseconds away, Singapore 242 milliseconds and London 83 milliseconds (I’m sure we all wish the BA flight could be this quick!).

If your organisation doesn’t understand its strengths and weaknesses in respect to cybersecurity, then investing in a cybersecurity assessment will move your organisation towards the 22 per cent zone.

Change and projects is another area that is challenging to organisations and their IT leaders. Forty-seven per cent of projects that are concluded are considered to be a failure. This statistic is negative in its own right, but the areas in which organisations need the most help are in offshoring IT functions (58 per cent unsuccessful), implementing big data (57 per cent unsuccessful), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) roll-out (56 per cent unsuccessful), and implementing new finance systems (53 per cent unsuccessful). These statistics are trending upward indicating that organisations need more help in focusing on successful delivery.

Co-sourcing solutions offer greater flexibility

Finding effective and experienced programme and project management resources is a challenge, particularly if those resources require experience in running a similar project previously. In some cases, using co-sourced resources to magnify the experience of your in-house team can be the solution that makes all of difference while helping your in-house staff gain knowledge and grow as part of the project.

Moving to the cloud is increasingly the direction of travel, with 49 per cent of IT leaders expecting to make significant investment in software as a service within the next three years. Organisations are seeing this as a means to become more responsive with 37 per cent of IT leaders reporting that this is part of their plan to improve their agility.

Many Bermudian-based organisations have historically been hesitant to implement cloud based systems, wanting instead to hold their data on the island. Attitudes are changing and perhaps these statistics will enable further progress to be made.

It is important to note that cloud solutions are not an appropriate solution in all cases though, so IT leaders should still perform their usual solution selection process to ensure the right fit for the organisation.

Darren Wray is the chief executive officer of Fifth Step and has more than 25 years of IT and management experience within the financial services and other sectors. Fifth Step operates globally from its offices in Bermuda, London and New York, providing IT leadership, change management, governance services to executives and senior managers within insurance, investment, legal and banking organisations of all sizes.