Executive summary: 2015 global CIO survey Creating legacy

CIOs deliver value to their organization by adopting one of three behavior patterns: trusted operator, change instigator, or business co-creator.

Welcome to Deloitte’s 2015 global CIO survey: Creating legacy. Our goal in conducting this research is to start an ongoing dialogue among CIOs about the attributes, skills, and competencies that define their role—and ultimately determine their success. We surveyed and conducted in-depth interviews with more than 1,200 technology leaders across 43 countries. More than a hundred of the US Fortune 500 and over a quarter of the Global Fortune 1000 companies are represented in this year’s research.

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Despite our initial hypothesis, we found no significant differences across industries, geographies, and company size in how CIOs delivered value. That said, our analysis did yield important insights about how CIOs operate within the leadership ecosystems of the organizations they serve. We learned that CIOs are laser-focused on understanding how they’re creating impact and value today—and where their value proposition is headed in the future.

Four elements shape CIO legacy

Based on our experience with executive transitions, we identified four elements that shape the CIO legacy: business priorities, leadership and talent, relationships, and investment priorities.

  • Business priorities: CIOs around the globe were nearly unanimous in identifying the top five business priorities:
    • Performance
    • Cost
    • Customers
    • Innovation
    • Growth

These top priorities were consistent across industry, geography, and size of organization. One understandable exception: Only CIOs involved in the public sector selected “cybersecurity” over “growth” as a top business priority.

  • Leadership and talent: Out of the 12 leadership capabilities, CIOs overwhelmingly picked six as the most important for success in their role:
    • Influence with internal stakeholders
    • Communication skills
    • Understanding strategic business priorities
    • Talent management
    • Technology vision and leadership
    • Ability to lead complex, fast-changing environments

Ninety-one percent of CIOs in our global survey acknowledged lacking at least one key skill. Three skills with the largest gaps were the ability to influence internal stakeholders, talent management, and technology vision and leadership.

  • Relationships: Not surprisingly, CIOs identified CEOs, CFOs, business unit leaders, and COOs as their most important relationships. A majority of CIOs claim to have excellent or very good relationships with these four business stakeholders, but outside of this group, there is a long tail of relationships that need more attention. For example, only a third report strong relationships with sales and marketing executives. CIOs need to be careful not to neglect other stakeholders.
  • Technology investments: When asked which technologies will have significant impact on the business within two years, CIOs aptly named analytics, business intelligence, and digital. The definition, scope, and specific technology investments for each of these technology initiatives varied significantly from organization to organization.

Three patterns fulfill CIO legacy

As we explored the survey data more deeply, we uncovered three distinct patterns that describe how CIOs are delivering value today—and how they are preparing for what comes next. CIOs in each pattern have distinct business priorities, leadership competencies, relationships, and technology investments that define their pattern. The three patterns are:

Trusted operators deliver operational discipline within their organizations by focusing on cost, operational efficiency, and performance reliability. They also provide enabling technologies, support business transformation efforts, and align to business strategy.

Change instigators take the lead on technology-enabled business transformation and change initiatives. They allocate significant time to supporting business strategy and delivering emerging technologies.

Business co-creators spend most of their time on driving business strategy and enabling change within their businesses to see that there is effective execution of the strategy.

Business needs dictate the CIO pattern

One CIO legacy pattern is not better than the others. What matters is choosing the pattern that matches the business need. As the business needs and personal competencies evolve, CIOs may need to shift patterns. In fact, leading CIOs consciously move from one pattern to the other based on their time and place; they develop, hire, or rent talent to fill any gaps in complementary skills needed to succeed and add business value. As CIOs find themselves in different situations, they have to take on the appropriate pattern to fulfill the expectations of their stakeholders.

  • When a CIO needs to be trusted operator: Organizations facing foundational issues related to reliability and performance need trusted operators at the helm; the same is true during cycles of cost reduction. When a company must stabilize its core business or shrink IT budgets, a trusted operator tends to be the right profile for the job.
  • When a CIO needs to be change instigator: When times demand clear vision, tough calls, and quick adjustments, you’ll need to sharpen your change-instigator capabilities. That means stepping up when there is an organizational mandate for growth and an appetite for change. The job goes well beyond technology and business processes. It’s also about cultural change.
  • When a CIO needs to be business co-creator: When companies are growing quickly, their organization likely needs a business co-creator in the CIO role. When business acumen, stakeholder buy-in, and a long-term view of technology investments are paramount, there is no substitute for a solid CIO co-creator. This role is often one that is earned over time—and is rarely handed out to new CIOs. Sometimes a change in reporting relationships can send a signal to the rest of the organization that a new kind of leadership is expected.

Personal passions inspire lasting legacies

During the research phase, we had the privilege of conducting detailed interviews with CIOs who lead some of the world’s most successful IT organizations. Four significant themes around personal passions and motivations emerged from those discussions.

Making IT matter. These CIOs were exemplary champions for IT, with a strong desire for their companies to understand and appreciate the contribution IT can make. They also described their passion for developing and engaging their people—and for making work fun and exciting.

Helping people to be more effective in both work and life. A good percentage of CIOs see their key contribution as one of enablement. They want to use technology to help their people become more effective in their jobs, make better decisions, and lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

Achieving business leadership beyond CIO. Some CIOs have aspirations for broader leadership, especially as their companies come to recognize how technology can drive competitive advantage. They have the respect of other business leaders—and they have the desire to transform their businesses.

Giving back. For a few CIOs, the idea of legacy has a very personal dimension. They want to use their position as a platform to give back to their communities and companies; they spend a lot of their personal time mentoring and developing business leaders.

Whether through intention or happenstance, every CIO is creating a legacy of one kind or another. How your legacy gets defined is largely—but not exclusively—up to you. The circumstances in which you find yourself operating have a big influence on what you need to accomplish today—and what you should prepare for in the future.

We hope you enjoy reading the full report, and we look forward to continuing this dialogue as we explore how CIOs can adapt to meet the dynamic requirements of their roles—and build a lasting legacy.

DUP_1487-2015 CIO survey (infographic)