The Changing Role of Chief Information Officers


Tech Current

By Maria Korolov

Once upon a time, community banks were more than happy to leave the chore of choosing technical devices and running networks to their chief technology officers. Now, however, as technology steadily assumes front and center stage in the success of community banks and is integrated across every department and process, the role of technology leaders is becoming both more strategic and much higher profile.

Several recent in-depth industry studies have provided observations on the changing role of chief information officers across various business sectors, including banking.

Tech dispersion. With success could come turf wars. An April study by Avanade— “What’s Creating Tension Between IT and Business Leaders?”—found that 68 percent of companies report their IT departments are contributing more to accomplish business objectives than they did three years ago. At the same time, budgetary and critical technology decisions are increasingly being made outside the traditional IT department.

In fact, 37 percent of technology-spending decisions in the companies Avanade surveyed are now made by departments other than IT.

Meanwhile, there’s a growing sense among all businesses that the full productive possibilities of IT aren’t being fully harnessed. In a 2013 survey by research firm Gartner Group Inc., chief information officers estimate that their organizations realize only 43 percent of technology’s business potential.

Building bridges. One increasingly prominent way for community bank chief information officers to help formulate strategy is to collaborate more closely with marketing heads and with others. In a July study “Cutting Across the CMO-CIO Divide,” Accenture, the accounting and consulting firm, found that 43 percent of marketers and 50 percent of senior IT officers believe that their relationship has improved since 2013. However, the study found that even though the relationship between technology and marketing chiefs is stronger than ever, many companies are still struggling to deliver the Holy Grail: effective integrated digital marketing.

The willingness for technology and marketing officers to join forces is a positive development indeed. In PricewaterhouseCooper LLP’s sixth Annual Digital IQ Survey, released earlier this year, 70 percent of top-performing companies say that they have a strong relationship between technology and marketing officers, compared with just 45 percent for companies not in the top-performing echelons.

“Failing to involve the [technology leaders] in market-facing innovation—where digital technology is a primary driver—is counterintuitive,” according to Andrea Fishman, a PwC advisory principal.

Mobile confusion. For many technology leaders, their myriad role changes have created a bad news/good news story. On the bad news side of the ledger, 43 percent of senior technology officers in the Accenture study note that marketing requirements and priorities change too often. What’s worse, they are grappling with the sudden surge in use of mobile devices.

A 2014 study by MobileIron Inc., titled “The Changing Mobile Landscape in Financial Services,” dubs 2014 “the year of the mobile majority.” The mobile software developer makes its declaration because it says half of all respondents believe that the majority of their employees will be using email and apps on mobile devices within the next 12 months.

Further, the MobileIron study says that senior technology officers in financial services anticipate this trend—and yet are not always fully prepared to migrate their banks and staff from traditional desktop and laptop devices to mobile smartphones and tablets. The study found that only 38 percent of technology officers are confident that they can address the risks posed by these new mobile platforms.

Opportunities abound. The good news for technology officers everywhere is that technology’s higher profile means that more resources and opportunities are becoming available. That’s true for community banking as well as other industries. Specifically, 14 percent of U.S. companies plan to add more staff to their IT departments in the second half of 2014, according to Robert Half Technology.

Finally, the majority of technology officers seem ready to operate in a more strategic role. The Accenture study found that 64 percent of them are prepared to pursue digital marketing opportunities, even though they face significant challenges in executing on these strategies.

Elizabeth Judd is a freelance writer in Maryland.