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Businesses unequivocal that IT warrants its place in boardroom discussions

Pure Storage research has revealed that only a quarter of IT leaders are actually excited by the technology itself and instead are spurred on to invoke positive business change and further ROI. We take a look at some of technologists’ top priorities for the next 12 months.

Pure Storage, an IT pioneer that delivers Storage-as-a-Service (SaaS) in a multi-cloud world, has announced findings from a European study of IT leaders, revealing how the pandemic has caused a seismic perception shift of IT within organisations and given technology leaders a superior strategic voice within the business. The research, based on interviews with 504 IT leaders across Europe, including 100 from the UK, looks at the motivations of IT leaders, the progress made in the last year and how their priorities are shifting. 

With so many businesses realising how essential data is in powering their success, it follows that 87% of UK IT leaders are proud of the impact they’ve made over the last year. In fact, 57% are motivated by the knowledge that IT has proven its value over the last 12 months, 56% state their excitement in IT having a strategic voice within the organisation and over half (52%) are driven by the direct link between technology changes and business outcomes. Surprisingly, only one in four (26%) say that it is the technology itself that excites and motivates them, suggesting that increasingly, they are focused on innovating, adding value to their organisations and supporting Digital Transformation. 

The role of IT in solving the business challenges posed by the pandemic

Despite the alignment between IT and the wider business being a challenge many organisations have grappled with for decades, the research suggests substantial improvements have been made among UK leaders over the last 12 months. In fact, technologists suggest that the alignment between IT leaders and the business has improved from an average 46% alignment two years’ ago, to a 66% alignment now – the biggest improvement of all the countries surveyed.  

When looking at how IT has been able to support the business through its challenges, IT leaders are confident in their contributions, with 41% stating that the technology infrastructure in place is very robust and 42% consider IT processes and culture to be very agile across the business in supporting the organisation’s needs.

However, IT leaders are clearly frustrated by the lack of recognition they’ve received for being a key enabler for change across the business during the pandemic, with over half (51%) stating that their results haven’t been recognised in the last 12 months. Other frustrations include competing priorities and reactive firefighting (45%) and the ongoing pressures to simultaneously innovate and cut costs (44%). 

“When the pandemic first hit, IT leaders had immense responsibility for maintaining operations and insulating their organisations from physical and financial disruption. Over the last year, this pressure has evolved and the focus is on providing a strategic overview of an organisation’s changing needs,” said James Petter, VP International, Pure Storage. “As we move forward, it’s imperative that business needs are balanced and prioritised so that CIOs can continue to provide the technology needed to create an impactful advantage for users.” 

The priority shift of IT leaders in the year ahead

Over the next 12 months, IT leaders have stated their intentions to focus on the development of their own skillset. Among the key skills IT leaders want to develop, strategic thinking and vision is a top priority for 52%, alongside skills around cyber-resilience (45%) and being outcome-focused (41%). 

This is further supported by the notion that IT leaders are looking to forge stronger partnerships with the board, with over half (54%) making a beeline for the COO, 45% choosing the CPO and 44% stating the CFO is the person they want to build a better relationship with. 

In terms of strategic goals for the year ahead, IT leaders’ main focuses for this year include: 

  • Mental health of staff: 56% state the intention to address employee mental health
  • The green agenda: 49% state that sustainability will be a key focus
  • Staying agile: 83% say rapid agility, the concept of using data to make quick business decisions – is essential for innovation and growth
  • The data debate: Over half (51%) want to focus on data democratisation

Finally, when looking into the top five priorities for the next 12 months, technologists intend to focus on the following:

  1. Agility: Embedding and accelerating agility across the business (82%)
  2. Customers: Enhancing digital customer experience/optimising customer journeys (80%)
  3. Remote working: Enhancing digital experience for a remote or hybrid working future (77%)
  4. Innovation: Driving innovation and rethinking business models (76%)
  5. Cost: Optimising costs/right-sizing IT (72%)

Petter concluded: “Understanding business priorities needs a strategic thinker to bring clarity and direction to long-term technology decisions. What we see from this research is that IT leaders’ vision can be held back by the infrastructure in front of them. In order to achieve the agility, customer focus and innovation they seek to prioritise, IT leaders need to be able to consume technology flexibly, scaling up and down as needed. The freedom afforded by this approach allows for more time and resources to invest in innovative projects. The superior strategic voice CIOs have worked so hard to elevate needs to be preserved, alongside any chance of building strong partnerships with the rest of the board.”

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