CIOs Reveal Priorities as Businesses Navigate a New Tech Landscape in 2021 State of the CIO Research

Latest CIO study outlines the expansion of CIO role and the tech and business initiatives expected to drive IT investment

Boston, MA, Jan. 28, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- IDG’s CIO – the executive-level IT media brand providing insight into business technology leadership – releases the 2021 State of the CIO research, which defines the role CIOs play in today’s business climate on a global scale. CIOs have long been business partners, balancing their evolving list of traditional and non-traditional IT responsibilities, and more recently adding revenue-generating activities and workplace diversity and inclusion priorities to their agenda. Over the 20 years this research has been fielded, CIOs have shared insights during challenging and prosperous times and this year is no different. IT leaders in North America, EMEA and APAC shared how current socio-economic conditions, such as the global pandemic, are shaping their roles and driving increased importance around certain business and technology initiatives.

The New Tech Landscape
Due to the impact of the pandemic, 82% of CIOs say that they have implemented new technologies, IT strategies and/or methodologies. To support these implementations during this time, 37% of organizations increased their IT budget, 36% said they made no changes to their IT budget, and 27% made IT budget cuts. Asked to evaluate the success of these budget changes, the majority (42%) of tech leaders said their budget changes were on target and a quarter said it is too early to tell. Despite significant economic challenges, technology has proved to be essential to organizational growth, and that will continue in 2021. Close to half (49%) of CIOs anticipate their tech budget will increase over the next 12 months, 39% expect budgets to remain the same, and only 12% expect their budgets to decrease. While not as bullish as the 2020 State of the CIO results, where 59% of CIOs expected their tech budgets to increase, the future of tech investments is much brighter than responses in April 2020 where only 25% of IT leaders expected budget growth.

“2020 presented companies with a variety of challenges, from the transition of employees to a work from home set-up, to finding alternative ways to engage with clients, and even disruption of entire industries,” said Sue Yanovitch, VP of Marketing, IDG Communications, Inc. “The need for business transformation was accelerated by the pandemic and CIOs, along with their teams, lead the charge in implementing new automation tools, customer experience technologies, and security solutions. This work, and levels of investment will continue into 2021.”

Business & Technology Initiatives for 2021
The business initiatives that are expected to drive the most IT investment in the upcoming year include transforming existing business processes, increasing cybersecurity protections, and improving the customer experience. These also top the list of business initiatives that increased in priority over the past 6-12 months due to socio-economic pressures. A few others worth mentioning that increased in priority are improving employee productivity (49%) and establishing and supporting a more diverse and inclusive IT culture to enhance and broaden innovation initiatives (39%).

In order for these business plans to come to fruition, organizations are strategically adopting and implementing new technologies. Technology initiatives that will drive the most IT investment include data/business analytics tools, security/risk management, cloud-based enterprise applications, customer experience technologies and machine learning/artificial intelligence tools. Specifically focused on improving the customer experience, organizations hope to utilize technology to provide alternatives to face-to-face communication (65%), adapt products and services to meet changing demands (47%), and deliver products and services in new ways (45%).

CIOs Embrace both a Traditional & Modern Role
While pioneering these business and tech initiatives, CIOs are focusing their time on security management (44%), improving IT operations/systems performance (41%), and aligning IT initiatives with business goals (40%). Additionally, the majority (96%) of CIOs say that their role is expanding beyond traditional IT responsibilities including cybersecurity (57%), data analysis (47%), data privacy/compliance (44%), customer experience (39%), and business development (35%). As their role expands outside of conventional IT tasks, 68% of heads of IT say that the creation of new revenue-generating initiatives is among their job responsibilities. In order to support the creation of new products and services to become more revenue-driven, organizations are automating business and/or IT processes, creating teams focused on innovation, and interacting directly with customers.

Over the past 6-12 months, these initiatives have seen a positive shift in priority with 81% saying that automating business and/or IT processes has increased in importance, followed by interacting directly with customers (78%), developing a customer journey (75%), and creating more diverse and inclusive tech teams (71%). Additionally, 77% of CIOs feel that their organization understands that the rate of innovation increases if diversity and inclusion is embedded into technology teams and it is important to note that CIOs are not taking this lightly. Close to three-quarters (72%) say that they are making diversity and inclusion a priority during the IT hiring process, and this increases to 81% for enterprise and 79% for healthcare organizations.

Continue the Conversation
To engage with these IT leaders as they research new tools and solutions and share best practices, learn about becoming a sponsor at one of IDG and CIO’s virtual summits or roundtables. Our portfolio of virtual events provides tech vendors with the opportunity to engage with their specific target audience and strengthen their brand awareness.

About State of the CIO Survey
The 20th annual survey was fielded online among CIO’s audience with the objective of understanding the current parameters of the CIO role and how it may be changing over time. To be considered qualified, respondents must have identified themselves as the head of IT for their company or a division within it. Results are based on 812 qualified IT respondents, and 250 LOB responses. This study was fielded globally, with the response base being 50% North America, 24% APAC, 25% EMEA and 2% other. You can learn more about the 2021 State of the CIO research in the executive summary.

About CIO
CIO focuses on attracting the highest concentration of enterprise CIOs and business technology executives with unparalleled peer insight and expertise on business strategy, innovation, and leadership. As organizations grow with digital transformation, CIO provides its readers with key insights on career development, including certifications, hiring practices and skills development. The award-winning CIO portfolio provides business technology leaders with analysis and insight on information technology trends and a keen understanding of IT’s role in achieving business goals. CIO is published by IDG Communications, Inc. Company information is available at

About IDG Communications, Inc.
IDG Communications’ vision is to make the world a better place by enabling the right use of technology, because we believe that the right use of technology can be a powerful force for good.

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