British CIOs must shift balance from keeping the lights on to innovation

Research by managed services provider Claranet has revealed that UK IT departments are spending less time than their European colleagues on innovation, instead demonstrating a preference for operational projects and maintenance tasks.

This indicates that the UK is at serious risk of falling behind its European counterparts, most of whom are embracing innovative IT practices on a much larger scale.

Vanson Bourne surveyed 900 IT leaders and decision makers across the six European countries in which Claranet operates – the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the Benelux nations. The survey results have shown that UK IT leaders devote just 8 per cent of their time to innovation, compared to an average of 11 per cent across all the countries polled. The UK figure is well behind Benelux and France, spending 12 per cent and 13 per cent of their time respectively.

In addition, IT departments in the UK are responsible for driving the least amount of innovation in their respective organisations, at just 34 per cent. This is compared to 43 per cent in France and 44 per cent in Spain.

This data suggests that a culture of inertia has been allowed to develop in IT departments in the UK, in which IT managers have become more concerned with keeping the lights on, rather than finding ways in which they can add value to their businesses.

Andy Wilton, CIO at Claranet, commented: "Given the workloads that IT departments have to cope with, it is understandable to an extent that decision makers might choose to focus on running a tight ship rather than taking a step or two into the unknown. However, innovation across all aspects of a business is crucial to maintaining competitive advantage, and IT departments should not be exempt from this.

"Other countries in Europe are demonstrating that a focus on innovation is very much a possibility, and appear to be leading the UK in this regard. It is vital that IT departments prioritise closing this gap before ang long-term damage is done to the UK's reputation as a centre for innovative business practices."

To help address this imbalance between the UK and the continent, Wilton believes IT departments should focus on being less inward-looking in their approach, and look to how more innovative companies are leveraging technology and business practices to help position their entire business more favourably in the market.

He added: "Embracing a DevOps approach enables IT departments to be much more agile in terms of how they carry out their projects, and helps to better connect the role of the IT department to the business as a whole. In addition, making the most of the expertise and fresh approach offered by external IT service providers can give departments a much greater deal of flexibility when it comes to choosing solutions that work best for their individual needs.

"The statistics should serve as a stern warning to IT departments across the UK: bring innovation to the top of the agenda, or risk being left behind", Wilton concluded.

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