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Majority of Australian businesses surveyed not prepared for next major business disruption

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More than three-quarters (76%) of Australian chief information officers (CIOs) believe their CIO organisation is not completely prepared to help their companies withstand another major business disruption, a new study finds.

This is despite a time of unprecedented investment in digital infrastructure and transformation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study by Genpact, a global professional services firm, found nearly 98% of respondents agreed that data-driven decisions are needed to realise business value.

Digital commerce technologies were identified as the top innovation to help CIOs achieve their goals.

During the past year’s disruption, Australian CIOs who invested in automating processes, adopting advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) adapted most successfully.

Genpact’s research, in partnership with the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, presents the views of 500 CIOs and technology leaders globally, 50 of whom are in Australia.

Respondents are from banking and financial services, insurance, healthcare and life sciences, high tech, consumer goods and retail, media and entertainment, and industrial manufacturing.

The study provides actionable insights from CIOs on how to accelerate digital business transformation for a post-pandemic world.

Just over half (54%) of those surveyed agree strongly that they are well-positioned to support company growth after the pandemic.

Driving digital transformation

The study reveals three distinct roles: pilots, co-pilots, and engineers, with varying levels of influence over guiding change in their companies.

In Australia, 24% of CIOS are pilots, leading the way and driving the transformation journey strategically across core business functions. The largest cohort, 56%, are co-pilots partnering with business leaders to shape and deliver transformation, and 20% are the engineers, simply executing, not driving transformation.

A CIO’s ability to drive digital transformation in the right places at the right time can make or break a business, the study notes.

Looking to the future, Australia expects to see an innovation boom and heavy investment in growing digital skills as supported in the 2021-22 Australian Federal Budget. This will not only enable CIOs to actively engage in the digital economy with confidence, but also empower businesses to grow investment in digital technologies.

“Our global study validates what we’re seeing across our clients,” says Sanjay Srivastava, chief digital officer, Genpact, who presented the research findings to the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium yesterday.

“As the power of the cloud, data, and AI redefine the future of work, the CIO role is evolving exponentially but not equally,” Mr Srivastava said.

“Transformation pilot CIOs that drive alignment across the C-suite and put the organisational focus on building resilience and innovation will be the co-creators of new business models and future-ready companies. CIOs who do not will see their organisations struggle.”

Other significant findings from Genpact’s CIO study include:

  • Influencing the CEO’s agenda is critical to CIOs’ transformation success

The findings show that it is not enough simply to have access to the CEO, but rather to have a seat at the table in influencing the CEO agenda. It’s clear that to drive strategic change, a CIO needs to report at a high organisational level, ideally to the CEO. But for the most successful CIOs, regular CEO meetings, not just reporting lines, make all the difference in the ability to leverage combined business and technology expertise to influence the company’s strategic business agenda. 

  • Being a data-led organisation is imperative to success

Australian CIOs are aligned on the need to be data-driven. Almost all (98%) agree that their companies make data-driven decisions to realise business value. Respondents cite digital commerce technologies as the top innovation that will help CIOs achieve their goals. The top choice for investment if they had additional financial resources is robotic process automation/intelligent automation. These technologies allow CIOs to make the most of the data at their disposal, generating predictive insights for more informed decision-making.

  • In the virtual world of work, CIOs are overlooking HR

As the pandemic forced more focus on employee safety, with only 30% of respondents saying that their CIO organisation helps track employee wellbeing, human resources still ranked last among the functional areas prioritised for full-stack technology investment over the next two years. This warns of a potential disconnect in meeting employee needs with new remote and hybrid office models emerging.

  • CIOs are pivotal in connecting employee and customer experience

About a third (32%) of Australian CIOs surveyed hold themselves accountable for employee experience and (30%) for customer experience. In fact, CIOs are uniquely positioned to connect CX and employee experience technologies. Only when employees are digitally enabled can they deliver the experiences customers expect. 

“CIOs who are not prepared from business disruption and post-pandemic growth risk becoming obsolete,” said Tom Davenport, distinguished professor at Babson College, visiting professor at Oxford, and research fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, and a co-author of the Genpact study.

“Genpact’s research provides insights on how all three types of CIOs can take the pilot’s seat to accelerate digital business transformation and business growth.”

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