European business leaders are not yet fully equipped for the digital age, with 63% saying they are far from ready for digital transformation, according to a new research commissioned by Ricoh.

The research also reveals that while an overwhelming majority of business leaders (83%) believe the CIO is well-equipped to drive digital transformation, they are not yet fully empowered to change critical growth activities. For example, the task of optimising business critical processes is ranked by business leaders as the number one activity that is having the biggest positive impact on business growth.

However, CIOs are currently least able to change it; just 9% believe they are empowered in this area.

The research reveals that there is a clear opportunity for the CIO to step up to help shape the digital strategy and company growth, if further empowered by the business.

The top three attributes of a successful CIO according to business leaders are:
* Having a marketing background;
* Technology expertise; and
* Business critical process optimisation expertise.

Yet few respondents said that the CIO was currently empowered to change corresponding elements of a successful digital strategy, such as customer engagement (just 13%) and supply chain (just 14%).

Currently digital transformation projects are predominantly led by either the CTO or CIO (43%), followed by the CEO (30%). However when considering the CIO specifically, they are leading in just 21% of businesses. In addition less than half of the business leaders polled, said they had a CIO on the board (46%).

“The research insights show that the majority of businesses are still in the digital dark ages and are currently unprepared to drive digital transformation,” says Ian Winham, CIO and CFO at Ricoh Europe.

“During a time when much more technology-led change is anticipated businesses will need to be able to adapt quickly to new client demands, economic conditions and to maintain a competitive advantage.

“To meet the challenges posed by this change, IT management should no longer be sidelined as a supporting role, instead CIOs must be further empowered to influence business models, client interaction and employee productivity.

“By starting with business critical processes – the number one ranked activity to impact business growth – CIOs can combine technology expertise with commercial acumen to review, and change the organisations traditional ways of working,” Winham adds. “In turn they will gain much more than cost savings.

“The business will benefit from being able to move forward with a more productive and agile working model where employee knowledge sharing is enhanced and they are more responsive to client needs. In the longer term, with these strong foundations in place the CIO can focus on the core business areas and successfully lead the organisation into a brighter digital future.”