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Gartner: A/NZ orgs digitally mature but lagging in “Fitness”

By Ben Moore
Tue 5 Nov 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Gartner’s annual global survey of CIOs found that 40% of global CIOs – and 54% in Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ) – have reached scale for their digital endeavours, a significant increase from 2018.

Speaking at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo in Australia this week, analysts said the next challenge CIOs face is looming disruptions, such as an economic recession, natural disaster or data breach, which will force them to take action if they wish to emerge stronger on the other side of a “turn.”

In the past four years, 93% of enterprises in A/NZ have experienced a turn that upset normal operations, such as severe operating cost pressures, political upheavals, leadership turnover, adverse regulatory interventions and so on. 

Organisations in A/NZ are more likely than the global average to have experienced severe funding shortfalls. As such, the survey shows that the CIO role will remain critical in leading their enterprises through crises and transformations.

“Uncertainty is the word of the year for business leaders,” says Gartner vice president and distinguished research analyst Andy Rowsell-Jones. 

“We’re still seeing most enterprises use digital to optimise existing business models for today’s environment, rather than thinking about preparing for the next turn, leaving them exposed when the next crisis hits. CIOs need to take specific actions to increase their organisation’s fitness now if they want to grow stronger and more competitive after the coming turn.”

The 2020 Gartner CIO Agenda survey gathered data from more than 1,000 CIO respondents in 64 countries and all major industries, including 72 CIOs in A/NZ. For the CIO Agenda report, Gartner analysed this data and supplemented it with interviews with CIOs (or equivalents) who had important lessons to share about preparing for and so winning in a turn.

Fit enterprises are winning in the turns

The survey separated CIO respondents’ enterprises into two groups, “fit” and “fragile,” depending on how they fared in their last turns. 

In A/NZ, 16% of enterprises are considered “fit”, compared with 23% globally. On average A/NZ organisations are behind in the attributes that create enterprise fitness.

Fit enterprises emerged from their turns stronger in capabilities such as funding business initiatives and attracting the right talent, while fragile enterprises emerged less capable in these areas. 

Fit enterprises, on average, also increased their revenue by 5% per annum over the past three years, faster than the 3.5% per annum revenue increase for their fragile peers.

Fit leaders actively search for emerging trends or situations that require a change, and then leverage the IT organisation as an instrument to navigate that change accordingly. 

Enterprises that want to become fit should focus on aligning, anticipating and adapting to dynamic business scenarios.

Alignment – or the extent to which organisations can stay together while shifting to a new direction during crises – is an area where fit enterprises most outperform fragile. Providing clear and effective leadership is one key area of alignment. 

Nearly half of fit survey respondents rated their leaders as very effective on “accurately communicating business needs to IT,” compared with only 30% of fragile survey respondents. Fit enterprises are also more likely to have disciplined IT investment, a clear vision, consistent overall strategy and a strong CIO/CEO relationship.

“A big take-away for CIOs is that fit enterprises increasingly view IT as a point of leverage for the business,” says Rowsell-Jones. 

“Having a clear and consistent overall business strategy ranks as one of the most distinctive traits of fit enterprises. In such organisations, digital technology will drive that strategy. CIOs should plan for disruptions of various kinds to accelerate in most verticals. 

“Unless their enterprises are already fit, turns deaden their ability to flex as the environment changes. Enterprises that acquire these capabilities before a crisis hits won’t suffer permanent damage from it, but actually come out better in the end.”

Implications of flat IT budgets

Turns temporarily risk revenue and profit, but more importantly, erode the fundamentals of running a business, such as launching new initiatives or making investments. 

IT budgets for fragile enterprises are expected to grow just 0.9% on average in 2020, compared with 2.8% for the overall sample of organisations and 2.1% in A/NZ. This means fragile IT enterprises that have a low budget to begin with, will suffer permanent structural damage following a disruption.

“Although a downturn is not the likely scenario through 2020, the risk is high enough to warrant preparation and planning,” says Rowsell-Jones. 

“The research shows that those that prepare are better placed to win in a turn than those that do not. CIOs should actively search for emerging situations that require a change ahead of time and take measured risks in order to prepare if they want to outperform their reactive, fragile counterparts.”

A/NZ CIOs will prioritise cybersecurity, RPA in 2020

Fit enterprises that engage IT to gain competitive advantage have higher adoption rates of contemporary technologies, including cybersecurity capabilities, robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). 

The same enterprises have CIOs who are dedicated to modernising IT’s core and are shifting investments accordingly. 

Analytics, application modernisation and various forms of cloud computing are among the areas where most CIOs are increasing their investments in 2020, according to Gartner.

“Last year, I said that CIOs need to elevate their digital business to a stable and secure state. For the most part, they are well on the way to achieving that,” says Rowsell-Jones. 

“Success in 2020 means increasing the preparedness of both the IT organisation and the enterprise as a whole to withstand impending business disruption by planning for it ahead of time.”

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