Shadow IT giving CIOs a unique opportunity to evolve

Chief information officers (CIOs) in Singapore have an unprecedented opportunity to take a leading role in their organizations, thanks in part to the rise of “shadow IT.” That’s one of the paradoxical findings of a new global study published today by BT, based on a survey of almost 1,000 senior IT decision makers in eight regions 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 Singapore, with 82 percent of CIOs in the country seeing it within their organizations, compared with 76 percent globally.  On average, shadow IT now accounts for 22 percent of an organization’s IT spend in Singapore, compared with an international average of 25 percent.

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 Singapore are now spending 17 percent more time and substantial additional budget on security as a result of shadow IT, versus a global average of 20 percent.

A unique opportunity

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.

“CIOs are perfectly placed to nurture creative uses of technology throughout their organizations while keeping a strategic view.  Indeed, our research shows that the board expects nothing less,” says Luis Alvarez, chief executive officer, BT Global Services.

Some 74 percent of respondents in Singapore say that the CIO now has a much more central role in the boardroom compared with two years ago, versus 59 percent of CIOs globally.  And 84 percent believe that their board’s expectations of them have increased substantially during the same period, versus 68 percent 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, 88 percent of respondents in Singapore say they now own more business than technology KPIs, compared with 81 percent globally. 

Aligned to this, 78 percent of respondents in Singapore, versus a global average of 64 percent, 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 Singapore positively embrace; with 72 percent saying the ability to be more innovative and creative is the biggest plus of their job, versus 69 percent 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.”