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Outsource magazine: thought-leadership and outsourcing strategy | August 22, 2017

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Helping businesses prosper and CIOs find a more strategic role

Helping businesses prosper and CIOs find a more strategic role
Outsource Magazine

While most CIOs and IT directors may have won the battle to win a seat at the boardroom table, it seems that many are still struggling to exert any real influence over business strategy. And the main reason why this continues to be the case is that they are too busy ‘fighting fires’ and trouble-shooting IT problems to focus on driving the business forward.

Just under two-thirds (64%) of respondents to a recent Calyx survey, polling the views and opinions of 200 CIOs and IT directors, said they sat on their company’s board of directors. Yet only around one-third (33%) of the overall sample said they saw “driving strategic growth through technology” as their most important responsibility.

Perhaps more significantly, even fewer (16%) actually spend their working day driving the development of business through IT, while only 11% said they mainly focus on developing strategic concepts through IT to move their organisation forward. This compares to 46% whose everyday tasks mainly involve “fire-fighting” – that is, IT management and keeping systems up and running.

The issue is that many CIOs are simply too busy being pulled from one problem to another, frustrated at having to deal with everything from fulfilling board demands for cost efficiencies and cost-cutting (33%) to security (44%) and data management issues (60%). The need to focus on keeping the lights on is preventing CIOs from exerting any influence over how the business is run. At a strategic level, it is a job that is still mainly defined in IT terms and they simply do not have the time to shift to a broader business focus.

Keeping the Show on the Road

In one sense, the survey findings are not particularly surprising. Ubiquitous across every organisation, ICT has become the ultimate business enabler. Senior decision-makers are painfully aware of the costs of downtime from sales opportunities missed to lost productivity and damage to the brand. Even a relatively short outage can be financially crippling for a business. So, it’s not really a revelation that keeping systems up and running is high on the priority list for most CIOs.  What is arguably much more surprising – especially given the breadth of skills needed to meet today’s maintenance and support challenges – is that many CIOs are still attempting to do everything themselves, in-house.

The survey does indeed indicate that many respondents see “freeing up the in-house IT team to focus on core IT drivers” as a key benefit of outsourcing. Yet the findings also indicate that the majority (60%) do not currently outsource to a managed services provider.

Maybe they would be more likely to take the plunge and outsource if they fully understood that the benefits of outsourcing are not just around the time and cost savings that migrating to the approach can bring. In fact, the real value of the approach comes from the technological expertise that the outsourcer can bring with them.

Today’s ICT demands in-depth knowledge of telephony, networking, storage and applications. It’s impossible for all but the largest enterprises to hold that expertise in-house. However, by outsourcing, organisations are gaining access to a specialist team who know these technologies inside out and can bring added value through sharing that expertise. At the same time, CIOs get the benefit of the opportunity to refocus IT time and expertise on creative ideas and innovative thinking that address real operational challenges and help shape the future of the businesses for which they work.

About the Author

Jamie Marshall 150Jamie Marshall is Chief Technology Officer, Calyx Managed Services.

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