Are You a Survivor or a Thriver?

The Changing Role of the CIO Blends Technical Skills with Business Expertise

Time to Rethink ITFor a CIO, the transformation of IT is a highly personal matter. While staffers throughout the IT organization must embrace new ways to deliver services, it’s the CIO who’s ultimately accountable for ensuring that IT drives real business value. In the past, it might have been enough to focus on operational factors like cost and productivity. Today, the business needs the CIO to play a more strategic role in regards to competitiveness and financial performance. IDC calls those who rise to this challenge “Thrivers,” a new breed of CIOs who combine emerging technical skills—in particular, around “third-platform” cloud, mobile, big data, and social models—with a deeper understanding of the goals of the broader business. Those clinging to a business-as-usual approach are labeled “Survivors”—though in reality, their long-term survival is hardly assured.

Rising business demands on IT—and the failure to meet them

The transformation of IT is especially urgent in light of the critical role that it now plays in business. In a recent IDC survey commissioned by BMC Software, 89 percent of respondents reported that IT services are very important to their business processes and functions—including two-thirds who said that these services are very important for revenue generation. In fast-moving global markets, competitiveness can depend on everything from the ability to introduce new products and services more quickly, to the speed with which a company can complete an acquisition or open a new location, to its ability to increase customer lifetime value—all of which are highly IT-dependent.

All too often, though, IT fails to deliver the services the business needs—a problem called IT friction. More than half of the respondents in the IDC survey indicated that they believe that current IT methods cause friction for their business, citing consequences such as stifled innovation, slowed application time to market, and the failure of the business to match the pace that people work. Nearly two in five respondents report that IT failures cause direct loss of revenue in their business.

While most IT organizations recognize that they need to raise their game, there is a clear disconnect between their good intentions and the actual results for the business. Although 36 percent of the IT respondents to the IDC survey claim that IT is strategically working to address business needs, only 20 percent of line-of-business respondents shared this view. The gap is even wider when it comes to leadership—56 percent of IT respondents feel that IT provides dedicated, executive-level individuals to each line of business, but only 24 percent of line-of-business respondents consider this to be the case.

What CIOs need to do to thrive

Simply put, most CIOs today are hired or fired based on their ability to help the company generate revenue. To do this, they need to focus on strategic projects like new applications, big data initiatives, and new business and digital services—and spend less time and budget on routine operations. They also need a better understanding of how best to meet the needs of the business, from major business objectives to the day-to-day work experience of employees. To become thrivers—not just survivors—CIOs need to do three things:

  1. Focus on strategic outcomes – CIOs at companies identified by IDC as thrivers are primarily concerned with time-to-market, competitiveness, and customer satisfaction, all key business concerns with direct implications for revenue. Survivors, by comparison, focus more on operational costs and employee productivity—worthwhile goals, to be sure, but hardly strategic. Cost control and high productivity should be the baseline expectation for IT, not the full extent of its aspirations.
  1. Automate key functions and empower end users – Traditional IT service delivery models don’t do users or IT any favors. For IT staff, low-level requests and manual processes divert time and resources from more strategic or innovative work. For users, the need to wait for IT services and support can be highly frustrating and unproductive—especially when there’s no clear sense of when services will be delivered. Thrivers are now working to translate the needs of the business into automation solutions and services, including the automation of key business functions, to free IT staff for higher-value work while simultaneously accelerating service delivery.
  1. Migrate to third-platform technologies – It’s impossible to overstate the impact of the cloud, mobility, big data, and social models on the way companies operate and do business. As the bulk of IT spend shifts rapidly to the cloud, fixed legacy infrastructure can place lethal constraints on IT’s ability to enable business agility. Similarly, enterprise mobility, including telecommuting, as well as the adoption of mobile platforms like tablets, offers flexibility in the way people work and serve customers that no organization can do without. Big data powers unprecedented insight into market opportunities and potentially the best way to exploit them. Social platforms empower workers to collaborate and share intelligence as never before. Companies that are unable to leverage these trends effectively face a critical disadvantage as compared to more innovative competitors.

By empowering users to perform self-service business functions—just as many people already handle consumer technology needs in their personal lives—thrivers are removing bottlenecks and delivering a more satisfying, consumer-like IT experience. Indeed, respondents at thriver companies are more than twice as likely to consider their IT services to be better than Amazon, iTunes, and smartphone apps. On the whole, 82 percent of these respondents are very satisfied with their IT service desk support—compared with barely half of respondents whose CIOs are only survivors.

The transformation to a new IT offers a powerful opportunity for every CIO to become more valuable to their business, and for the business to become more successful and profitable. By taking a more strategic, business-centric approach to their work, and taking full advantage of the possibilities of third-platform technologies and IT automation, CIOs cannot merely survive, but thrive—and help their businesses thrive as well.

To learn how enterprises are addressing the friction associated with IT needs and the gaps and opportunities that exist between business needs and IT service delivery models read, “Moving Beyond the Costs and Risks of IT Friction” – an IDC Whitepaper.

These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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Dan Ortega

Dan Ortega

I am responsible for ITSM Solutions Marketing with BMC Software. My background includes senior management positions with Fortune 500 technology companies, as well as leading marketing for a series of successful start-ups. I have managed multiple global marketing launches, and drove my first start-up from a standing start to a $200 million acquisition in less than twelve months. Specific software experience includes SaaS, content management, business intelligence, predictive analytics, and information lifecycle management. Industry experience includes mobile, financial services, e-commerce, defense, manufacturing, and publishing.