2021 CIO Study: The CIO Revolution
Breaking barriers, creating value

2021 CIO Study: The CIO Revolution

Breaking barriers, creating value



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2021 CIO Study: The CIO Revolution

The pressure on technology leaders has never been more intense. Technology was already at the center of modern society, but in 2020, the pandemic thrust digital capabilities into the forefront. COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of new tools and practices in ways previously unanticipated but now accepted as the norm. For many individuals, organizations, and communities, technology was more than a solution. It was the lifeline by which they sustained themselves.

Rapid adaptation has continued to accelerate during 2021. A “Virtual Enterprise” model is emerging, fueled by a new post-digital approach to business opportunity. This model is based on the speed and scale of cloud technologies—notably the flexibility and interoperability of hybrid cloud, and the rapid results generated by combining artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. Together, these technologies create synergies and unlock new value streams that are orders of magnitude greater than what each can enable individually.

IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV) surveyed 5,000 C-suite technology leaders, including both Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs). A select group of executives were contacted for in-depth qualitative interviews, revealing insights about their on-the-ground experience leading technology organizations throughout a period of exceptional disruption. Spanning 29 industries and 45 locations worldwide, this study is our most exhaustive examination of this critical cohort in more than 15 years of research.

2021 CIO Study: The CIO Revolution
Breaking barriers, creating value


Bookmark this page  

From digital to virtual, overnight

The pressure on technology leaders has never been more intense. Technology was already at the center of modern society, but in 2020, the pandemic thrust digital capabilities into the forefront. COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of new tools and practices in ways previously unanticipated but now accepted as the norm. For many individuals, organizations, and communities, technology was more than a solution. It was the lifeline by which they sustained themselves.

Rapid adaptation has continued to accelerate during 2021. A “Virtual Enterprise” model is emerging, fueled by a new post-digital approach to business opportunity. This model is based on the speed and scale of cloud technologies—notably the flexibility and interoperability of hybrid cloud, and the rapid results generated by combining artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. Together, these technologies create synergies and unlock new value streams that are orders of magnitude greater than what each can enable individually.

IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV) surveyed 5,000 C-suite technology leaders, including both Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs). A select group of executives were contacted for in-depth qualitative interviews, revealing insights about their on-the-ground experience leading technology organizations throughout a period of exceptional disruption. Spanning 29 industries and 45 locations worldwide, this study is our most exhaustive examination of this critical cohort in more than 15 years of research.

2021 CIO Study: The CIO Revolution
Breaking barriers, creating value

“If a CIO talks about the business as if it's something external to them, I think there’s a big problem. You are the business and the idea that you’re not is problem number one.”

— Steve McCrystal, Chief Enterprise and Technology Officer, Unilever

CIOS are driving transformation at an astonishing pace.

As organizations pursue radical agility, technology executives and the organizations they lead have taken center stage. “The idea that the business leads technology strategy is now obsolete,” observes Laura Money, CIO at Sun Life Financial. “Business strategy is developed in partnership with our technology strategy—as we share a common goal of putting clients first and making it easier to do business with us digitally.”

This 2021 IBM CIO Study explores how—even in the midst of uncertainty—CIOs are driving transformation and business value at an astonishing pace. Back in 2011, only 1 in 5 CIOs ranked themselves as a critical enabler of business/organization vision. Now, they’re collaborating with colleagues to meet fast-changing demands and driving value throughout their enterprises and beyond.

Explore key insights from global CIOs

01

A new role
for CIOs

Learn how technology leaders have emerged as strategy leaders and are creating change.

Read

02

The best
of both worlds

See how collaboration is essential in building value from an expanding technology portfolio.

Read

03

Finding
your path

Explore the 3 discrete CIO mandates and what drives success for each of them.

Read
01A new role for CIOs

Unprecedented change, unprecedented opportunity

Technology adoption has been accelerating and becoming an inextricable part of every organization and business function. Correspondingly, the technology function has grown dramatically in scope and complexity. The role of technology leaders has expanded not just in breadth, but increasingly in strategic influence.

This prominence brings challenges. Today’s technology portfolio is a dynamic mix of centralized, decentralized, and federated services. CIOs at large enterprises now manage hundreds, if not thousands, of applications spanning dozens of functions, often at global scale. And while CIOs continue to deliver the core IT services that power the day-to-day operations of the business, they are also expected to drive innovation that paves the way to a successful future. Many technology leaders not only embrace this increasingly diverse set of responsibilities, they do so under longstanding talent and budget constraints.

The pandemic continues to underscore that the CIO role is more crucial than ever. Whatever the future holds, the ability to adapt to the unknown and transform risks into opportunities will be indispensable.

During a period of widespread anxiety and workplace disruption, technology leaders have been central to addressing their organizations’ most pressing needs. Citing examples from tackling supply chain issues to helping ensure business continuity to enabling remote work, 77% of the CIOs in our study report that their teams played a vital role in their organizations’ response to the pandemic.

Furthermore, according to IBV research, the pandemic has prompted 55% of organizations to permanently course-correct their strategies. This includes accelerating the pace of digital transformation, adjusting the approach to change management, and shifting to more cloud-based business activities.

Given these changes, organizations that innovate and iterate deftly can gain decisive advantage. Case in point: CIOs report that 20% to 40% of organizational business processes have been automated. This automation helps drive intelligent workflows, which in turn create a “golden thread” of value, enhancing connections both within the enterprise and across its ecosystem.

Destination automation

The extent of automation within the enterprise

The percentage of CIOs reporting advanced capabilities has risen dramatically since 2019:
700%
Hybrid cloud operations
560%
Digital process automation and intelligent workflows
467%
Cloud-native development
327%
Cloud-native deployment
292%
Data insights and AI
  • During a period of widespread anxiety and workplace disruption, technology leaders have been central to addressing their organizations’ most pressing needs. Citing examples from tackling supply chain issues to helping ensure business continuity to enabling remote work, 77% of the CIOs in our study report that their teams played a vital role in their organizations’ response to the pandemic.

    Furthermore, according to IBV research, the pandemic has prompted 55% of organizations to permanently course-correct their strategies. This includes accelerating the pace of digital transformation, adjusting the approach to change management, and shifting to more cloud-based business activities.

    Given these changes, organizations that innovate and iterate deftly can gain decisive advantage. Case in point: CIOs report that 20% to 40% of organizational business processes have been automated. This automation helps drive intelligent workflows, which in turn create a “golden thread” of value, enhancing connections both within the enterprise and across its ecosystem.

    The percentage of CIOs reporting advanced capabilities has risen dramatically since 2019:
    700%
    Hybrid cloud operations
    560%
    Digital process automation and intelligent workflows
    467%
    Cloud-native development
    327%
    Cloud-native deployment
    292%
    Data insights and AI