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Fundamental shifts in CIO role, TEKsystems research finds

January 25, 2018

CIOs will need to adopt a dual role with an increasing shift toward becoming a “partner-liaison” for tech initiatives outside core IT’s traditional domain, according to research from TEKsystems.

According to data gathered in conjunction with TEKsystems 2018 IT Forecast, trends indicate new initiatives still owned by core IT are being increasingly outsourced, accompanied by an upswing in tech initiatives being directed by other internal lines-of-business. The end result is that IT leaders are indicating their roles are evolving, with internal IT department personnel increasingly being leveraged for maintaining existing systems, and strategic new initiatives laying outside the purview of centralized IT.

“Data shows that IT leaders view themselves as becoming more transformational over the next two years, but data also indicates that the traditional purview of IT will not provide that opportunity,” said TEKsystems Research Manager Jason Hayman. “As centralized IT will be expected to contribute less in the way of innovation and more in the way of support and efficiency, strategic CIOs will change from managing all of IT to additionally acting as a strategic line-of-business partner.”

Highlights from the report include:

IT leaders are declining in criticality while project managers are holding steady. TEKsystems noted that prior to 2016, CIOs, VPs of IT and IT managers were considered by a relatively higher number of respondents as most critical for organizational success. However, beginning in 2016, their perceived importance began to diminish. Although these high-level IT roles are still important, TEKsystems believes that a key transitional aspect of the CIO is to become the main strategic liaison in the management of an ecosystem that includes business partners and outside vendors involved in new initiatives outside of centralized IT, while also serving as a consultant to internal lines-of-business running their own IT efforts.

IT leaders view their roles as becoming increasingly transformational. Contrary to data that indicate IT leaders are becoming less critical to organizational success, the number of CIOs and executive IT leaders indicating their roles will become responsible for more transformational activities during the next 12 to 24 months is increasing. Against a backdrop where many cutting-edge technologies — such as big data AI, automation, and IoT — are being implemented outside of core IT (i.e., marketing, sales), as well as core IT being increasingly outsourced (DevOps, Cloud), efforts will require leadership and consultancy outside of centralized IT.

Centralized IT support of new initiatives now commensurate with efficiency and “lights-on” efforts. When asked about the business initiatives IT will most need to support in the coming year, improving efficiency jumped to the top spot while trends indicate declining emphasis on implementing new IT applications, highlighting an increase in “maintenance mode” for centralized IT. Overall, IT departments will be expected to place essentially equal emphasis on all three areas: efficiency, new applications and existing applications. TEKsystems believes this is due to the continued decentralization of IT and the increasing assumption that other business functions are responsible for driving their own IT innovation. This is further evidence that in 2018, senior IT management, especially at the C-level, must adapt to changing demands that straddle both traditional IT responsibilities and new responsibilities external to centralized IT if they seek to maintain strategic, leadership positions.

Spending trends bolster movement towards decentralization. Organizations seem to be taking a balanced approach on spending, with budget growth toward externally oriented approaches now equal to internally oriented approaches. In reviewing the traditional methods that many organizations look to leverage in addressing skills or project needs, historically they started with internally focused efforts such as training or augmenting staff. Conversely, if organizations choose to outsource, they generally shift to project-based / statement-of-work activities or outsourcing entire initiatives. The data over the last three years show that internally-focused efforts have remained mostly the same, while external-facing approaches have continued to see an uptick.

TEKsystems, part of the Allegis Group, is the largest IT staffing firm in the US. The online survey was conducted in October 2017 and included more than 1,000 North American IT leaders — CIOs as well as IT VPs, directors and hiring managers.


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