IBM CTO Revelation

The CTO Revelation: From the IBM Global C-suite Study

As businesses try to figure out how to stay in business in a post-pandemic market, the spotlight moves to their technology executives. IBM surveyed 5,000 C-suite technology leaders on the role of CTOs. Respondents span 29 industries and 45 locations worldwide. This study marks their first significant look at the evolving influence and responsibilities of the CTO role. Explore what is top of mind for global business leaders.

  • CTOs expect 5G and robotic process automation to be instrumental over the next 2–3 years. Artificial intelligence (AI), edge computing, quantum computing, and biological computing will have a growing impact over time. Tech leaders stated their plans to invest in emerging technologies, with cloud computing noted as the top area for investment.
  • The CTO’s role has expanded to encompass some of the most extensive organizational capabilities. 55% of those surveyed noted their primary C-suite engagement is with the CEO and an equal percentage engaging with the Chief Operating Officer (COO). With data fueling innovation, it’s no surprise that CTOs add data to their list of central responsibilities. 79% of CTO respondents indicate that they play a leading role in their organization’s data strategy. 70% state that their colleagues look to them for data governance and stewardship.
  • CTOs are uniquely positioned to advise the CEO, C-suite, and the Board on technology strategy and architecture. Research shows that both CTOs and CIOs agree on the CTO’s core mission: technology strategy, architecture, and operations.
  • The CTO-CIO alliance: delivering value, together. As the CTO role has moved up the organization’s hierarchy to the senior-most ranks, CTOs are turning to their CIO counterparts as important allies. At a high level, the technology function has a common set of responsibilities that are typically distributed between CTO and CIOs. Research found that allocation of CTO duties can vary based on industry, organizational structure, and reporting relationships.
  • Organizations enjoyed additional financial gains based on the strength of collaboration between CTOs and CIOs. Thus, the combination of advanced technology measures plus strong CTO-CIO collaboration had a net compounding effect on financial performance, as measured by revenue growth and operating margin.

CTOs are at the heart of evolving innovation efforts within the Virtual Enterprise. They are primary owners of technology strategy and control levers that accelerate discovery and innovation. 85% of CTOs rely on an experimental approach across the value chain for collecting data and insights. 74% cite the use of dedicated innovation teams as key to innovation.
CTOs are wrestling with important, yet hard-to-answer, questions such as: Are they minimizing the impact of infrastructure on the environment? Are they considerate when writing efficient code? Do they utilize citizen information ethically? Are their systems all-encompassing? Do they accommodate the diversity of the people they serve?

ibm c-suite study
Mandate #1: The Technology Steward
Advising the C-suite and Board is their top responsibility, cited by 88% of respondents. Data privacy (50%) topped the list with SDLC (34%) and ecosystem strategy (29%) ranking in the top 4. While looking outward, they also prioritize applying any new insights internally.

Mandate #2: The Operational Expert
They are tasked with building a forward-looking strategy from the inside out. This group looks for ways new technology can enhance the value of their existing investments. They identify advising the C-suite and the Board as their top responsibility.

Mandate #3: The Hybrid Hero
The key signal for this mandate: advising the C-suite and Board is cited by only half of respondents as a top responsibility, putting that specific priority in fifth place for these CTOs. The time demands on Hybrid Heroes are more fractured and dispersed. Their role is focused more on driving business revenue, suggesting the utility-focused nature of this group’s mandate. But these Hybrid Heroes deliver dramatically when it comes to collaboration and tech maturity.

Planning for the road ahead
CTOs can build on strong technology leadership and aim for a decisive advantage moving forward. Successful CTOs understand the businesses they support, the evolving technology and risk landscape, and how to connect the pieces. The stakes are high, but so are the prospects for success.

Recommended actions for all CTOs
Model responsible leadership, envision and invest in a bold future and pursue new possibilities with unexpected partners.

Mandate-specific recommendations

      • Actions for the Technology Steward CTOs: Double down on strategy by transcending boundaries, share your story and take purposeful action
      • Actions for the Operational Expert CTOs: Think deeply & selectively, don’t lose the forest for the trees and unlock new value streams
      • Actions for the Hybrid Hero CTOs: Turn challenge into opportunity, deploy the hybrid work environment and bring time horizons into focus

Source: IBM

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