The mission of most IT organisations is to serve the business by focusing on ways to cut costs, enhance productivity and streamline processes, says Lee Naik, MD: IT Strategy and Transformation at Accenture SA.
There are good reasons for this, as more efficient operations and processes can obviously help to reduce the bottom line. However, more recently we have seen the rise of a new breed of CIOs who understand that investing in digital technologies can deliver real business advantage by enhancing the customer experience, driving new growth opportunities, and improving overall performance.

Accenture’s latest research report, High Performers in IT: Defined by Digital, paints a compelling picture of these innovative IT leaders who are leaving their more conservative counterparts behind by investing in transformative technologies such as cloud computing, analytics, social media, mobility and security.

These technologies help to create more agile businesses that are better equipped to analyse and understand requests from customers, pass them on to the right person at the right time, and deliver new products and services that meet or anticipate their customers’ needs.

Because high performers have been early adopters of digital technology, they have a significant head-start and are already reaping the benefits compared to those who are just beginning to implement their digital strategies. For example, the research shows that 69 percent of high performers are committed to mobile transactions as part of their customer service, compared to 42 percent of other CIOs.

This is significant because mobile transactions allow customers to do things like place orders, book travel, and even transfer cash between bank accounts while they are on the go. And nearly one-third of customer interactions for high performers are already self-service, with seamless interfaces across mobile, social media and Web channels.

The report also found that top performers are learning to master a hybrid IT environment. They have adopted a “cloud first” mentality, with one-third of IT leaders replacing their legacy architecture with private and public cloud components – eight times more than their counterparts in other organisations.

Meanwhile, one in six manage a fully virtualised, dynamically provisioned hybrid infrastructure, creating an agile platform that promotes the sharing and exchange of data and ideas seamlessly across multiple business units. Forty percent of high performers have seen a measurable improvement in IT agility as a result of cloud technology, compared to just nine percent of the others.

However, all this aggregated data, cloud technology, mobile connectivity and seamless, across-the-board customer interaction also bring security concerns. The Accenture research found that this is one area where many organisations are struggling to keep pace, and there is a general acknowledgement that endpoint security is not sufficient to deal with the constantly evolving threats.

Active defence strategies are needed that attempt to stay ahead of attackers, and three-quarters of IT leaders have made it a priority to lower their risk profile and upgrade their best practices more rapidly during the year ahead.

It is interesting to note that high performing CIOs have generally been in position for longer than their peers. This may reflect the fact that these CIOs have built strong foundations for their digital businesses that directly result in revenue growth, and they have the metrics to prove it.

This gap will likely continue to widen, and as digital tools evolve, customer service improves and revenues increase, forward-looking CIOs who understand how IT can help drive the business will watch as their competitors recede even further in the rear-view mirror.