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‘CIOs Vital to Growing Customer Base’, Claim UK Business Leaders

11th December 2013

New Research Reveals Technology and the CIO as the Catalysts for Creating Competitive Advantage and Driving Innovation

London, UK: 11 December, 2013 – Chief Information Officers (CIOs) across the UK are seen as the anticipated source for creating competitive advantages through generating new ways to communicate with customers and employees (69%) and understanding and improving the customer experience (67%). This is according to data released today by SunGard Availability Services, the pioneer and leading provider of Information Availability services.

The study of 550 C-level and senior business decision makers, from organisations with more than 250 employees across the UK, France, Sweden and Ireland highlights the rise in business confidence as organisational mind-set shifts in an attempt to drive new revenue opportunities, with technology and the CIO seen as the catalyst for this change.

In a context where 97% of UK businesses believe aligning their initiatives with the IT department’s capability will yield some form of competitive advantage, the dual pressures on today's CIO become even clearer: they’re expected to support new areas of growth while balancing the ever changing demands of employees, customers and partners alike.

By all accounts it's a mantle they're seen as ready to assume with 95% of non-IT decision makers in the UK reporting their CIOs as having the capable skills and expertise to strategically support the business. Perhaps unsurprisingly and as acknowledgement of the difficulty of the role of a CIO, it was the weight of dealing with everyday activity (46%) and lacking the necessary resource (51%) that was cited as the top reasons holding CIOs back from supporting broader business objectives.

The research also points to how cross-departmental co-operation is key to effectively tackling those separate but sizeable challenges. 40% believe the IT department and senior management team should work very closely together to deliver business growth and enterprise availability, and while 42% believe a healthy distance between the two should exist for a competitive advantage to truly exist, just 3% of UK correspondents believe this means not working with the CIO at all.

Looking at their internal relationships within the organisation, 61% of UK respondents suggested they work closely with the CIO and their team because they are helpful in realising their department's ideas, are an integral part of their team (58%), and are open to new ideas (55%).

“Historically IT has also had a tricky relationship with the rest of the business. It’s often referred to as a troubled marriage, but in many cases it’s not the technology that’s the problem, but a perception that it doesn’t deliver, is inflexible and drains resources”, comments Joe Peppard, Professor at the European School of Management and Technology. “If the CIO can foster positive relationships with c-level colleagues, they have a great opportunity to build confidence, credibility and legitimacy that leads to business impact across the organisation.”

Where the CIO does, and arguably should, sit in regards to the senior leadership team opens up some interesting areas of debate. 77% of business decision makers in the UK responded that their CIO was part of the organisations senior leadership team  or a member of the board. Further to this, over half (59%) of respondents who replied they weren’t felt they should be, led by those from a marketing (73%) or HR (68%) department.

Surprisingly, more CIOs report into the CEO (42%) and COO (27%) than the CFO (26%), potentially indicating the need to have wider board representation at a senior management level, to ensure IT isn’t just seen as a cost-centre, but a potential area that can help meet organisational goals.

“As companies position themselves for growth, the CIO can become burdened with the task of everyday activities that focus on keeping the lights on rather than looking at ways to strategically support the business,” concludes Keith Tilley, Executive Vice President, EMEA & APAC, SunGard Availability Services. “Here is where a trusted technology partner can offer real assistance, and business leaders recognise this. In the UK over half cite an external partner as helpful in managing change initiatives (56%), responding to new demand patterns (55%) and enabling greater business agility/ competitiveness (55%), as companies look to capitalise on the opportunities today’s market is providing.”