Doesn’t anyone want to talk with the Chief Information Officer?
PricewaterhouseCoopers, the big consulting firm, on Tuesday published its fifth annual survey of “Digital IQ,” or how well executives understand the capabilities of modern technology. It also tries to identify what it will take to realize those capabilities (often, not surprisingly, with the kind of services a big consulting firm can provide).
The key technologies in this year’s survey included mobile, social media, big data and cloud computing. The goal, the report said, is not just to employ these emerging technologies to automate or streamline processes, but to use them in innovating faster and better, and to create more valuable products and services. Making this happen, the authors said, requires open and effective communication at the highest ranks.
“We asked business leaders and information technology professors how strong the relationship was between the chief information officers and others at the top of the organization. Then we had them rate it, on a scale of one to five,” said Chris Curran, one of the study’s authors. “We were looking for the characteristics of companies that had a 4.5 or more.”
Of 1,100 companies surveyed, with both information technology and nontechnical executives surveyed in equal measure, just 13 percent had that strong relationship. At least you can’t accuse these respondents of grade inflation.
If your company is among these top performers, it is four times more likely to be in the top 25 percent of your industry in profit margins, revenue, and innovation, the report found. Or, putting that another way, 87 percent of companies face long odds of having those pleasant outcomes.
The greatest top-level disconnect, Mr. Curran said, appears to be between corporate chief information officers and chief marketing officers. “Which is weird, because there is so much energy around big data and analytics,” he said. “It’s creating a conflict.”
Part of the explanation may be in what’s happened to marketing departments. All the emphasis on Web commerce and mobility have flooded these offices with data, and has drawn a lot of techies. Eric Horvitz, a senior member of Microsoft Research, recently told me that marketing has now drawn almost as many quantitative specialists as Wall Street.
There’s probably some impatience among that crowd at how fast corporate I.T. is delivering what they need. On the other side, there may be fear and suspicion from IT that marketing departments want to take over the most glamorous part of their jobs.
How will this get fixed? Like many things, it may not. It will just muddle along, the way much technology already does at many companies. But Mr. Curran also sees this conflict as “an opportunity for the C.I.O. to step up.
“C.M.O.’s say, ‘I want to own all the external data,’” said Mr. Curran. “But they’re not managers and integrators of I.T. They’ll see it’s hard.”
At that point, a techie who can also speak basic marketing might yet become a hero. Or at least a 4.5.