CIOs are under increasing pressure to help safeguard not only a company’s data but also its corporate reputation and trust, according to the CIO in Focus study by Edelman.
Nine in 10 CIOs in Singapore (92%) say their leadership has a direct impact on their organization’s reputation, and 91% say they are expected to play a crucial role in building faith in their company among customers and employees. This responsibility now extends well beyond company walls – 60% of CIOs here say they are increasingly expected to act as an external spokesperson.
The study surveyed 400 CIOs across the U.S., UK, China and Singapore, examining a broad spectrum of industries and organizations of all sizes. The study particularly explores the differences between CIOs with fewer than five years of experience in their role and those with 10 or more years of experience in their role.
CIOs are under greater scrutiny for their actions. Locally, 70% of CIOs say the pace of innovation in IT is moving too fast, even higher than the global average of 63%. 57% of CIOs in Singapore also agree that there’s pressure on them to consider and regulate the impact of digitalization on society.
“The pace of innovation and regulation is fundamentally changing the role of a CIO,” said Sanjay Nair, global technology sector chair at Edelman. “Their remit now spans from data security and privacy to the ethical use of artificial intelligence and safeguarding their organization’s future through digital transformation. Not only are they expected to keep the backend IT systems humming, but they also are right at the heart of building trust with customers, investors, and employees.”
CIOs’ recognition of their position as the “New Guardians of Trust” is borne out by public perceptions too. Earlier this year, the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer found that technical experts – such as CIOs, CTOs and Heads of IT – are more trusted than any other public figure.
CIO in Focus also found differences in the extent to which CIOs feel the burden of trust, based on their tenure and experience. When thinking about trusted relationships with vendors and suppliers, globally:
- CIOs with 10 or more years of experience say that when making decisions, they trust vendors or suppliers more based on previous positive experience (61%); a vendor's values, mission and purpose (61%); as well as the vendor’s betterment to society (58%).
- CIOs with fewer than five years in their role trust more based on gut feeling and perception of a company and its reputation (41%), as well as on relationships and emotional connections (39%).
- However, experienced CIOs are more concerned about the pace of innovation – 71% of them think it’s too fast, compared with only 55% of the less tenured.
- CIOs respond to this expanded responsibility differently. Experienced CIOs are more likely to describe their role in conventional terms as an IT expert, while less tenured CIOs see it as much more multi-dimensional, with increasing emphasis on higher strategic advisory and on an expectation of them to be influencers and leaders.
More tenured CIOs tend to prioritize short-term gains over long-term benefits. Beyond data security and privacy, CIOs with less experience focus more on innovating new products and services compared to more experienced CIOs, who put greater emphasis on driving the efficiency of existing investments.
Nair added: “To engage CIOs effectively, technology vendors must recognize the complexity and expansion of their role beyond the traditional boundaries of IT. Pitching innovation for the sake of innovation will not resonate – it needs to be positioned as an important milestone in the CIOs journey in building trust internally and externally.”
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