[CIO Survey 2014]

The inaugural ITWeb Brainstorm CIO Survey finds agility and speed of execution, budget, lack of skills are local CIOs’ top operational concerns. There is little time for innovation or digital strategy as most effort is spent on IT/business alignment.


The first ITWeb Brainstorm CIO Survey, run in association with Telkom Business, was conducted online on ITWeb from 1 August to 1 September. It focused on operational priorities, business value of IT, sourcing and strategic priorities.

The survey targeted CIOs or equivalent IT executives at corporates and public sector organisations. It attracted 158 participants. About 65% of the response base are large enterprises – employing over 500 people. Half of the participants fall into either financial, government, mining, manufacturing, or ICT.

Agility and speed of execution, budget, and lack of skills are the top operational concerns of local CIOs. By far the top effort is spent on aligning IT with business, as it is still largely perceived as a cost centre and a supporter but not a driver of business innovation.

Despite much talk of the pressure to transform in an increasingly digitised world, driving digital strategy is a priority for a mere 1% of CIOs.

These are the headline findings of the inaugural ITWeb Brainstorm CIO Survey, which were revealed at a banquet in Melrose Arch on 2 October 2014.


Driving digital strategy is a priority for a mere 1% of CIOs

Input from 158 of the country’s top CIOs was captured, says Ranka Jovanovic, ITWeb group editorial director

Input from 158 of the country’s top CIOs was captured, says Ranka Jovanovic, ITWeb group editorial director.

Presenting the results to 400 guests – including participating CIOs, their teams, survey and event sponsors − Ranka Jovanovic, group editorial director at ITWeb, said the survey was started in association with Telkom Business and is a South African first. Its objective is to track the unique priorities and challenges of South African CIOs, she explained.


Just over half of the respondents indicate their current, and projected, IT budgets are up or in line with inflation. A closer look at the two-year trend shows only one-fifth are beating inflation and one-third matching inflation, with half of the budgets lagging below the inflation line.

Richard Hurst, Ovum; George Ambler, Gartner; and Mark Walker, IDC: CIOs’ lack of focus on innovation and skills stands out

Richard Hurst, Ovum; George Ambler, Gartner; and Mark Walker, IDC: CIOs’ lack of focus on innovation and skills stands out.

Richard Hurst, senior analyst of enterprise services at Ovum, said CIOs find themselves between a rock and a hard place. “Budgets are under pressure while CIOs are looking to deliver on all these promises.”


Budgets are under pressure while CIOs are looking to deliver on all these promises.

The survey did not reveal much difference in in-house or outsourced spending patterns, but a marked preference for insourcing was identified in all areas except infrastructure and connectivity. A lot of respondents indicate both insource and outsource strategies for many categories

Spending is split between keeping the lights on (infrastructure, bandwidth, security) and business development (business intelligence, customer relationship management, analytics).


In terms of IT’s credibility as a strategic business function, the majority of CIOs (74%) believe IT is perceived as credible. However, “looking at how the CIO’s focus is split, more than half are supporting business growth, whole one-third are merely keeping the lights,” said Jovanovic. “Astonishingly, only 18% are focused on innovation.”

According to Mark Walker, regional director, Africa, insights and vertical industries director at IDC MEA, the CIO is uniquely placed. “At the end of the day, it’s about trust. The CIO is controlling the game and is the only person with a complete view into the organisation besides the CEO.”

CIOs have the pressure of multiple responsibilities, and don’t always have time to stop and think, adds Walker. “The industry is changing. We are seeing a lot more consolidation, legacy integration, legacy innovation and more competition. The pressure will be felt by CIOs. The winners will be the ones who use technology the best.”

Probing deeper into IT’s ability to innovate, the majority of respondents state IT itself is not an innovator but supports business innovation. Only about one-fifth believe IT is a driver of innovation. Very few indicate a formal research and development process or innovation budget.

George Ambler, executive programmes: business development director and executive partner at Gartner, says he was caught by surprise by the innovation finding. “If the CIOs aren’t doing it, then who? Globally we know budgets are flat, but my view is that if you’re not innovating, I’m not going to give you budget. Budget follows innovation.”

What then takes up most of CIOs’ time? For nearly half of the CIOs, it is the alignment with business, noted Jovanovic. “We have been hearing about the need for alignment for many years now – one would have thought that was a given by now.” IT governance and supporting infrastructure are the next two time-consuming activities on the CIO agenda.

The survey reveals two big issues when it comes to the barriers CIOs face in engaging with business: blaming the business and the lack of budget and resources. “Over 30% of CIOs believe business considers IT to be a cost centre rather than a partner at the executive table. They lack resources and support, and bemoan a lack of business discipline in using IT,” commented Jovanovic. A minority acknowledged a lack of business skills in the IT department.

In terms of supporting business, top operational concerns are agility and speed of execution, lack of skills, compliance pressures and squeezed budgets. “Inability to implement IT solutions fast enough was revealed as the top concern for 70% of CIOs, closely followed by lack of skills.”

A question of skills

The survey also revealed how little CIOs are prioritising skills, and raised the question of whether they are failing to step up.

On the one hand, the lack of skills is the second most pressing operational concern; on the other, skills recruitment and development is low on the strategic priority list – trailing these top priority items: support new business, consolidate infrastructure, strengthen security, drive process innovation and cut costs.

While relatively few are downsizing on skills − 43% said they are actively seeking specific skills, while 22% are increasing the use of outsourcing contractors − only 20% have internship programmes in place.

Walker said it is interesting that although skills are important, no one is doing anything about it.

Hurst said the survey results echo the sentiments Ovum is seeing across the globe. “There is an issue of skills, but are we doing the right thing? Are CIOs doing anything meaningful about it?”

Gartner’s Ambler agreed, and said although skills are a huge challenge, the survey shows they remain low on the priorities list.


What qualities are CIOs looking for in their technology suppliers? Strategic alignment, long-term vision and cost-effectiveness are of highest importance.

CIOs were rated their satisfaction with the existing clients and their solutions. The majority of the grades fall into the “somewhat satisfied” and “indifferent” categories, leaving room for improvement when it comes to vendor’s ability to meet the needs of South Africa’s top technology decision makers.

Note: The full research report based on the survey will be available to survey respondents free of charge in December. It will also be available for purchase from ITWeb’s Online Store

Survey results: Executive summary
About the survey
Picture gallery
About our sponsors
ITWeb Events: CIO Banquet
ITWeb Brainstorm, in association with Telkom Business, launched the first annual South African CIO Survey. The results of this benchmark report were revealed at a lavish banquet on 2 October 2014 at The Venue in Melrose Arch.
ITWeb Events: CIO Banquet Panel Discussion
The Brainstorm CIO Banquet panel discussion, facilitated by ITWeb's Jon Tullett, featured IDC's Mark Walker, Gartner's George Ambler and Ovum's Richard Hurst.


Brainstorm CIO Survey a vital research tool
Johannesburg, 19 August 2014
Almost 100 responses have been received for the inaugural Brainstorm CIO Survey 2014, proving how seriously top South African IT leaders are taking this first-ever initiative.
All set for Brainstorm's SA CIO survey
Johannesburg, 29 Jul 2014
South Africa's top CIOs will tell it like it is, through the first Brainstorm CIO Survey being conducted by ITWeb Brainstorm, in association with Telkom Business.

In partnership with ITWeb Brainstorm, Telkom Business is proud to be associated with South Africa’s first, widely circulated and publicised Brainstorm CIO Survey. Telkom Business is part of Telkom SA SOC Limited, one of Africa’s largest telecommunications companies, providing integrated communication solutions to business customers across various sectors. With its combined offering of fixed voice, data, cloud and mobile capabilities, it is well positioned to be the converged ICT market leader. For more information, please visit


Follow us on Twitter and tweet about your thoughts around this event, #ITWebCIO