Adobe’s “2019 CIO Perspectives Survey – U.S. Market Topline Report,” polled more than 200 CIOs from U.S.-based companies, with at least 100 employees, to get a better pulse on how the role of the CIO is evolving, and how the IT chief is coping with these changes. The online survey was conducted by Advanis in October.
The main finding: Eighty-two percent of respondents cited their No. 1 priority is security, followed by movement to the cloud (68%) and modernization of platforms (66%). However, although most organizations have prioritized these three areas, only 25% of CIOs feel their work is differentiated from competitors.
“Think about it: Technology is evolving at an unprecedented rate. Add to that the ever-looming issues like security, migration to the cloud, digital transformation, and customer experience, and it is easy to see that the job of the CIO is becoming more and more complex,” said Cynthia Stoddard, CIO of Adobe. “It can sometimes feel impossible to keep up because of how quickly new technology comes into the limelight and how fast digital capabilities accelerate."
Digital transformation, despite the hype and attention by enterprise businesses, is still very much in its infancy, the study found. Just 15% of CIOs gave their organizations top marks for having advanced digital maturity. Brands in the technology sector were most likely to rate themselves as advanced, while financial services industry CIOs were most inclined to give their organization a low rating. CIOs from smaller organizations were also less likely to note they are digitally mature.
Enabling customer experience is a major priority for most CIOs, but only one in 10 CIOs said CX is their primary responsibility, as it is most often led by the CMO or COO. However, CX is more of a focus compared to a year ago for 57% of CIOs surveyed.
When it comes to the technology that CIOs are paying close attention to, artificial intelligence (AI) is very much top of mind, the survey found, although many CIOs said the tech hasn’t yet reached fruition. And while its promise is understood by survey respondents, fewer than 20% of organizations currently leverage AI to streamline and speed up processes. Still, more than half (55%) believe AI and machine learning are key to meeting customer experience goals. The respondents said these particular technologies will have the biggest impact on improving customer experience in the future, beating out voice, chatbots, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
“Artificial intelligence has and will continue to change business as we know it,” Stoddard told CMO by Adobe. “And while our study shows that many of my peers clearly understand the value that AI can bring to their business, implementation can be difficult. Companies need to first figure out whether they have the right data and the right amount of it, and then also consider the implications that AI will have on business processes.”
Change has to happen culturally as well, she added.
“Implementation is also difficult because AI is really new to most businesses and there is shortage in talent that has a deep understanding of it,” Stoddard said.
The study also found that data integrity, an issue that has plagued organizations for quite some time, remains a challenge for IT leaders. Despite a general acknowledgment in the industry of the importance of data, just one in three CIOs said their companies are doing a good job cleansing, integrating and leveraging data to personalize customer experiences.
And a mere 15% agreed their organizations can leverage real-time data. It’s definitely a priority for next year, though, as the majority (75%) of CIOs polled said their organizations plan to increase their use of real-time data in 2020.
“I think the findings of this research cement the notion that CIOs and the IT department, in general, are the enablers of customer experience within businesses today,” Stoddard said. “While we aren’t managing the customer experience, we are making technology and decisions that will help fuel CX within the enterprise, and that is a really important hat to wear.”
Stoddard's advice to CIOs?
“Be ready to get out – and stay out – of your comfort zone,” she said. “Things will continue to change quickly. And remember, you can't fix everything in one day or even one year. But you can take it one step at a time. Surround yourself with smart individuals, both on your team and in your circle of peers, and use their expertise to help guide your decisioning.”