George Ambler, GartnerGeorge Ambler, Gartner

Gartner Africa’s Executive Programs recently hosted their annual CIO forum, attended by CIOs across industries in Kwa Maritane to discuss digitalisation and the impact of this emerging trend on the future role of the CIO.

The rapid and relentless digitalisation of society and business is dramatically changing the role of CIOs and the IT organisation. As a result, the ability to exploit technology and information has become a key competitive differentiator.

However, enterprises only realise a fraction of technology’s potential; on average CIOs report that their enterprises realise only 43% of technology’s business potential. This needs to improve if companies are to realise value in a digital world. This requires a change in IT’s role, practices and tools, requiring CIOs to set an agenda that leads to new attitudes, behaviours and roles.


CIOs always knew that doing the right thing required tending to IT by delivering cost-effective quality services. They therefore managed cost, complexity and risk to enable business operations in a world of managed stability. However, the world outside of IT has changed. Recession replaced growth, volatility replaced stability, dynamic change replaced predetermined plans, and front-office digital technology became more important than back-office operational IT. In discussions with CIOs attending the forum, the following needs were identified for improving IT’s ability to exploit technology for business advantage:

• Improved management of the IT investment portfolio
• Modernisation of legacy applications and systems
• Transformation of IT’s role from order-taker to business partner and contributor
• Improved IT governance and risk management
• Development of IT and business skills
• Resolution of network cost and bandwidth constraints in South Africa
• Keeping up with the pace of business change

Demands have increased as the world grows more dynamic and digital. Without change, IT faces a continuing quiet crisis as current practices and plans no longer meet future realities and expectations. CIOs have spent the last decade in a world of tight budgets, limited technology innovation, cost cutting, outsourcing and control. But digital technology changes IT’s business and technical context. CIOs now know that the future rests not in repeating the past but in extending IT by hunting and harvesting in a digital world. That is what is different in 2013.


CIOs cannot merely work harder. Over the last 18 months, digital technologies — including mobile, analytics, big data, social and cloud — have reached a tipping point with business executives. There is no choice but to increase technology’s potential in the enterprise, and this means evolving IT’s strategies, priorities and plans beyond tending to the usual concerns.