Anna Frazzetto's Blog

Digital Innovations and Technology Solutions

The Two Most Important Trends for Tech Leaders in 2013

I recently hosted a webinar to present the results of the 2013 Harvey Nash CIO survey which led to some fascinating discussion on CIO priorities for the year ahead.

You can view clips from the webinar at the following links, and check out the Q&A transcript at the bottom of this month's blog, below:

• Intro:
• U.S. CIO Trends:
• Key Findings:

During the webinar I identified two key trends from this year's CIO survey. First, a top priority for CIOs in 2013 is the need to collaborate better with partners both inside the organization and outside. Many technology leaders who participated in the survey said they had good relationships with peers from the operations and finance functions, but one in four CIOs admitted to having a poor relationship with their colleagues in marketing. A further 41 percent said they need to improve collaboration with the marketing team or their organization would lose competitive advantage.

Second, CIOs are not experiencing great success from their innovation investment. In fact while 75 percent see "great" innovation potential within their organization only three percent felt innovation success had been fully achieved. This also happens to be the subject of a recent piece by @cassieslane in where she reflects on the innovation impact of IT and Marketing not getting along, read Cassie's post here!

Why are these two trends important?

Having worked with CIOs during much of my technology career I recognize that some CIOs have historic reasons to be uneasy about engaging with their marketing colleagues. Until a few years ago the marketing team was only engaged sporadically by the technology function, for example when the CEO decided the business needed a new website or when the sales team wanted to track the results of the latest marketing campaign more effectively in a new CRM system.

The two functions contributed to organizational success in their own way but rarely worked together. In fact, for a surprising number of technologists you were part of the shadow IT department, i.e. web developers or .NET people that were hired by marketing or sales to help support their projects but were not actually engaged in the technology function.

However, that was before technology disruptors like mobile devices revolutionized the way organizations, and even entire industries, communicated with their audience and transacted business in a constantly-connected-online environment.

Today, innovation in the mobile marketing channel represents some of the fastest growing commercial opportunities in the world, enabling brands to engage new consumer groups and develop entirely new revenue streams that didn't exist five years ago.

Given the importance that mobile innovation has achieved within such a short time it is no wonder that one in five CIOs that Harvey Nash surveyed have already invested resources to mobilize some business services, while another 60 percent are rushing to innovate with mobile and invest more resources in the coming year.

With more resources to invest in technology innovation why aren't more CIOs experiencing success?

To understand how a new generation of consumers want to interact with business requires close collaboration with the mobile and social marketing teams who are busy developing the tools to enable an organization to engage and sell via these channels.

And once CIOs have a better understanding of what customers expect from mobile channels it is also important to improve collaboration with external parties with the niche skills that can support CIOs as they seek to close the innovation gap in mobile.

Having worked for more than 10 years with colleagues in Vietnam to deliver application development and mobile innovation, Harvey Nash is better placed than most to exhibit best practices in achieving a return on innovation investment.

Whether it is developing entirely new custom mobile applications, or testing and integrating mobile functionality into existing systems, a central reason for our success has been the close relationships we've built with our clients by delivering on shared objectives.

The lack of innovation success experienced by many CIOs is directly linked to a lack of effective collaboration by CIOs with their internal and external partners in my experience.

Only by collaborating with outsourced suppliers as if they were valued internal partners, by building relationships based on shared delivery goals with your marketing colleagues, and by developing a structure for effective communication across all groups collaborating on innovation projects will CIOs boost their innovation success.

For more insight on these subjects you can see excerpts from the Harvey Nash CIO survey Webinar at the following links:

• Intro:
• U.S. CIO Trends:
• Key Findings:

Check out the Q&A transcript at the bottom of this month's blog, or read the recent piece by @cassieslane in where she reflects on the innovation impact of IT and Marketing not getting along, read the post here!

2013 Harvey Nash CIO Survey Webinar - Q&A Transcript

What percentage of CIOs are you seeing reporting to CEOs now versus COO or CFOs?

ANNA: 36% show they're reporting to the CEOs. Second to that was CFOs, that's roughly in the 20 percentage category, and an even split of CIOs are reporting to CFOs and COOs. Many organizations actually have a dual role, where the CFO and COO is the same person.

Are you seeing numbers that indicate CIOs moving into COO roles as their next step, as opposed to another CIO role at a different company?

ANNA: Yes actually. That's a great question because just recently I was asked a question about 'do we see CIO roles moving into a CEO role, is that happening, is there any trend moving in that direction?'

And honestly, the next logical step that we are seeing is CIOs moving into a COO role. And if you think about it, that's a logical next step because over the years the CIO role has moved from a pure technology person to being more of a business person. So therefore, when you have that business experience, it makes it easier for you to move into the COO role.

There definitely is a renewed confidence at the CIO level. We're seeing a lot of upward mobility within that space.

CIO collaboration is a key theme in this survey, particularly the need to collaborate with the marketing team. So, do you think approaching the building of relationships with marketing is different than say, operations, where it looks like the relations are already looking quite good?

ANNA: Yes it is quite different, if you think about it you couldn't possibly pick two polar opposite functions within a company than operations and marketing so there will be differences in how you approach each.

What I'm starting to see is a role developing within the IT function as an inter-departmental liaison expert. It's actually quite similar to the role that emerged about 10 years ago as the Operations team sought to utilize technology to pursue internal efficiencies. Now, IT departments are starting to re-build this business liaison role as someone who can interface better with the Marketing function. It could be somebody who can basically understand the marketing world, but yet is technical enough to take the information and communicate it effectively back to IT. They're part translator (interpreting two quite different languages - IT and Marketing) and part diplomat (trying to encourage understanding between two no-so-different cultures but where there is still a gap to be bridged).

There's a lot of work that has to happen in that space, and it has to start at the CIO level. Because if you think about it, as more CIOs report into CEOs, there's going to be more pressure on CIOs to take responsibility for bridging those gaps with Marketing.

I always wonder when I see 'cloud' listed as a disruptor, I know there are many analysts that list it that way, but I'm interested if you have more detail in what CIOs and companies are doing when you say 'cloud'.

ANNA: Well, you know it's interesting, I think that's another trend that's evolved over the years and I'd be happy to get you additional information if I can just get your detailed information at the end of the webinar.

At an industry level, cloud went from you needing to be a certain size company for you to really maximize the use of cloud computing. Now it's evolved, and start-up companies use the cloud as a way of setting up their environment because they don't need to have any infrastructure set up. You can pretty much buy more as you use more.

From a terminology perspective, it's often viewed as disruptive, but I think that really does apply more to larger companies that have already built a mature infrastructure and therefore it does disrupt their environment when they try to transition to a cloud based environment. But I have to tell you for the small/medium business it's not disruptive at all, it's highly productive and seen as the way of the future.

This innovation gap is very interesting, especially with those that you surveyed only at 3% I think you said that fully have achieved innovation success. Do you have any best practice examples where CIOs are actually delivering the successful innovation that you can share with us?

ANNA: Oh sure, you know, that's a great question because at Harvey Nash we often get asked to 'help us figure out how we create innovation programs within our organization.'

Innovation can't happen just within the IT department. It's got to be built into the DNA of an organization. It's got to be exposed to all levels of management and all functions within an organization.

Now I have to tell you there are some great companies out there, you know some of the big companies, that are located on the West coast, when you look at Google and you look at Starbucks and you look at Microsoft and Apple, they have some great innovation within their organizations where they have actual "think tanks" embedded in their structure that run contests on a quarterly basis to champion innovation.

There are lots of creative ways of promoting an innovative culture in your organization. One criteria for fostering innovation that is often overlooked is the need for diversity. When I say "diversity" I'm not just talking about diversity of individuals, I'm talking about diversity of functions. You need to be able to tap into the talent in other departments that might not think their ideas relate to technology and get them thinking about how technology can make the customer experience better. It makes sense to poll ideas from your experts across the organization and ensure your CIO doesn't just think technology innovation is IT-centric only.

In addition, where you're using offshoring or outsourcing partners, it's important to engage those companies to help in the innovative thinking within your company. I think that all helps you drive your organization forward.

And let's face it--for every 100 innovation ideas that might come in, maybe only one will stick. But the fact that you're able to do that within a company, it's a positive message to all the employees and also it encourages creative thinking and therefore what's going to happen is that maybe next quarter instead of one good idea being implemented, you wind up with two good ideas and it'll start to mushroom from there, and hopefully that three percent of CIOs experiencing innovation success will increase!

We talked a little about transitioning the CIO role, the other trend out there is the "CIO Plus"--those that are maintain the CIO responsibilities, but then taking on other additional areas of responsibility. Are you seeing that in the survey? And if you are, where are some of the natural additions to the CIO role?

ANNA: That's an interesting point and from the perspective of the Harvey Nash CIO Survey we're not necessarily seeing that trend for the CIO role itself.

The CTO position has only really been in place for the last 15 years and for much of that time CTOs were viewed as being tactically focused on technology whereas the CIO acted in a more strategic way, providing the vision and defining the information management roadmap.

Now I'm seeing more of an interchangeable relationship between the CIO and CTO role. Some CIOs are taking on more technology implementation and there is more in the press about visionary CTOs. I'm also seeing a shift of CTOs who don't necessarily report into CIOs. And I've seen CIOs report into CTOs.

We mentioned earlier the other roles that can influence the priorities of the CIO, I do see a lot of synergy between the CFO and COO role - definitely in the small/medium space - and when those C-level executives wear two hats it can significantly impact the technology executives who report to them.