The CIO is vital in the current economic environment: the financial health of the business, including regulatory compliance and governance, and, increasingly, reputation, is firmly in their hands. 
It is no longer enough for the CIO to make sure the technology is working. It’s now part of their responsibility to understand the business from a strategic point of view and how the technology can help deliver business results.
Despite competing priorities, CIOs are focusing on growth and development as 2013 gets under way. According to Gerald Naidoo, CEO of Logikal Consulting, this is the year for companies to focus on their strategic priorities, and leverage technology to enable these.
“Business leaders need to focus on the micro – looking at how their companies can compete and gain market share – instead of the larger macroeconomic climate. Today’s CIOs are under more pressure to deliver results for their businesses, but have less time and a wider set of responsibilities.
“Despite this pressure, CIOs’ teams are often under-resourced and don’t include the right mix of skills for strategic and operational requirements because of the skills scarcity in South Africa,” he says.
While this paints a picture of over-stretched CIOs with more responsibilities but much less time for day-to-day tasks, as well as for the wide range of corporate or regulation-related projects that now take up much more of their time, CIOs will be taking a broad overview of the systems they are responsible for this year.
The answer, says Naidoo, lies not in continuing to throw more money or resources at the problem, but instead to recognise that whatever happens in the wider global economy, business never stands still.
“In terms of infrastructure and overall IT spend, there is still cost pressure on companies. Add to that the fact that IT departments are dealing with increasingly complex systems and requirements, and the need to sweat their assets becomes even more important. For IT professionals, 2013 presents an opportunity to stop, reprioritise, and consider new models for delivering services and resources.”
Sweating the assets is all about getting as much as possible from what is already present. IT is pervasive. It is a foundational tool for every organisation. But IT is more than the hardware, software, and networks that underlie a company’s strategic objectives.
These tools contribute little if the IT organisation does not also richly support them. Users count on IT support for the resources and services that transform technology into tools that empower them in their work.
Naidoo explains that the ability of companies to adopt new systems and new software products varies, and that many find it difficult to adopt new technologies.
“Establishing high-level leadership and dedicating adequate resources are essential for people-centric IT organisations. Today’s CIO leader must be a visionary and a strategist and must be skilled in using technology to leverage resources so as to serve growing constituencies.
“The choice is simple: do CIOs want to be managed down as a cost centre or squeezed as a direct profit centre? Or do they want to take their proper place in the boardroom as the driver of customer loyalty, revenue and profit?”