European business leaders not ready for digital age and CIOs held back

15 July 2013

Senior technology professionals in Europe such as chief information officers (CIOs) are not yet empowered to make the changes they need to in order to be ready for the impending digital transformation, according to a new poll commissioned by Ricoh, which also highlights that 63% of European business leaders admit they are not yet fully equipped for the digital age.

The Ricoh technology poll, conducted for the group by Coleman Parkes Research in May and June this year, found that while 83% of European business leaders believe their CIOs is well-equipped to drive digital transformation, in terms of their knowledge and skillset, they do not yet have enough internal clout to drive through internal projects alone. For example, the task of optimising business critical processes is ranked by business leaders as the number one activity that is having the biggest positive impact on business growth. However, CIOs are currently least able to change it; just 9% believe they are empowered in this area.

The research reveals that there is a clear opportunity for CIOs to step up to help shape the digital strategy and growth of companies if they elevated to the boardroom and given sufficient power.

The top three professional attributes of a successful CIO according to the Ricoh survey are:

• A marketing background (to be able to drive through customer-facing and benefits).
• Technology expertise (to enable projects to actually happen).
• Business critical process optimisation expertise (to ensure a smooth migration and efficient end process).

The European business leaders questioned admitted, however, that the CIO at their particular organisation was not yet currently empowered to change corresponding elements of a successful digital strategy, such as customer engagement (just 13%) and supply chain (14%). This needs to change in the future.

Elevating the CIO to the Boardroom
At present digital transformation projects are predominantly led by either the chief technology officer (CTO) or CIO (43%) followed by the chief executive officer (CEO) at 30%. However, when considering the CIO specifically, they are leading in just 21% of businesses, suggesting that they too need to be elevated to the boardroom. Only 46% of business leaders polled said they had a CIO on the board at present and for many this was a recent decision. This status is necessary to drive projects through however, and it takes time for CIOs to be given wider integration and efficiency control outside of straight technology provision.

“The research shows that the majority of businesses are still in the digital dark ages and are currently unprepared to drive digital transformation,” said Ian Winham, CIO and chief financial officer (CFO) at Ricoh Europe. “During a time, when much more technology-led change is anticipated, businesses will need to be able to adapt quickly to new client demands, economic conditions and to maintain a competitive advantage. To meet the challenges posed by this change, IT management should no longer be side-lined as a supporting role, instead CIOs must be further empowered to influence business models, client interaction and employee productivity.”

By starting with business critical processes - the number one ranked activity to impact business growth - CIOs can combine technology expertise with commercial acumen to review, and change the organisations traditional ways of working. In turn they will gain much more than cost savings.

“The business will benefit from being able to move forward with a more productive and agile working model where employee knowledge sharing is enhanced and they are more responsive to client needs,” concluded Winham.

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