Shadow IT inspires a renaissance for CIOs

Chief information officers (CIOs) in manufacturing have an unprecedented opportunity to take a leading role in their organisations, due in part to the rise of 'shadow IT'. That's one of the paradoxical findings of a new global study published by BT, based on a survey of almost 1,000 senior IT decision makers in eight regions and six sectors worldwide.

'Shadow IT' is the name given to the growing practice of departments, such as finance or marketing, buying their own IT solutions. According to the study, 'Art of Connecting: creativity and the modern CIO', the practice is now common in manufacturing , with 78 per cent of manufacturing CIOs seeing it within their organisations, compared with 76 per cent globally. Shadow IT now accounts for 25 per cent of manufacturing organisations IT spend, the same as the international average.

The growing confidence of departments in buying their own IT solutions is shifting the CIO's focus away from hands-on support to a more strategic role centred on advice, governance and security. Indeed, CIOs in manufacturing are now spending 20 per cent more time and substantial additional budget on security as a result of shadow IT. This is in line with the global average.

Despite worries about a loss of control and sizeable reductions to their overall budgets, the changes driven by shadow IT give CIOs a unique opportunity to evolve their role. Luis Alvarez, chief executive officer, BT Global Services, said: "CIOs are perfectly placed to nurture creative uses of technology throughout their organisations while keeping a strategic view. Indeed, our research shows that the board expects nothing less." Some 59 per cent of respondents in manufacturing, the same as the global average, say that the CIO now has a much more central role in the boardroom compared with two years ago. And 66 per cent believe that their board's expectations of them have increased substantially during the same period, versus 68 per cent of international respondents.

This is reflected in the types of key performance indicators (KPIs) that CIOs are now accountable for. Whereas a traditional CIO would have been judged largely on IT metrics, 86 per cent of respondents in manufacturing say they now own more business than technology KPIs, compared with 81 per cent globally. Aligned to this, 64 per cent of respondents in manufacturing, the same as the global average, believe their board now recognises the need for a much more creative CIO, one that can operate across the organisation, orchestrating technology and skills to deliver departmental or strategic business outcomes. It's a change that the majority of CIOs in manufacturing positively embrace; with 70 per cent saying the ability to be more innovative and creative is the biggest plus of their job, versus 69 per cent globally.

Craig Charlton, chief information officer, De Beers, said: "Creativity comes from really understanding your business issues, really understanding technology and being able to put those two things together. It's the fusion of a pressing business problem with a good command of what technology can do that leads to great ideas. And without creativity, you will end up with a role focused on transactional services and traditional IT, rather than looking to the future."

CIOs in manufacturing view unified communications (67 per cent, versus 72 per cent globally), cloud (72 per cent, versus 71 per cent globally) and mobility (69 per cent, versus 73 per cent globally) as the technologies that can help unlock their creativity. And in a win-win, these, are also identified as being the most critical to delivering commercial results. So the more CIOs are creative in their use of mobility, cloud and unified communications, the more likely they are to meet the expectations of their board.

Luis Alvarez said: "I've been a CIO and to me it feels as if we're on the verge of a renaissance of the profession with greater opportunities than ever before. In this new environment, CIOs who can adopt a creative, imaginative and visionary mind-set, and look more to their IT partners for innovation and fresh thinking, will thrive."

Dave Aron, Gartner Fellow, et al., wrote: "digitalisation is no longer a sideshow — it has moved to centre stage and is changing the whole game. CIOs have a unique opportunity to take a strong digital leadership role in the transformation of their businesses. Seizing this opportunity requires flipping long-held behaviors and beliefs."

About the research

"Art of Connecting: creativity and the modern CIO" is based on a survey of 955 senior IT decision makers in the USA, UK, Germany, Brazil, Spain, Australia, Benelux and Singapore. Respondents were from organisations with over 1,000 employees and were drawn from the banking, retail, energy & resources, transport and logistics, manufacturing and public sectors. The survey was conducted during November 2014 by independent market researcher Vanson Bourne. "Art of Connecting: creativity and the modern CIO" can be downloaded at

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