CIO Perspectives: New Deloitte Survey Unveils Technology Leaders Current Priorities, Performance, and Competencies

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Wednesday, June 12th, 2024

Key takeaways

  • Shaping, aligning, and delivering a unified tech strategy and vision is the biggest priority for CIOs surveyed this year (46%)

  • Only a third of technology leaders grade their organizations as leading edge in talent management, optimizing IT strategy, and sustainable IT

  • The role of the CIO is being elevated with nearly two-thirds (63%) of technology leaders saying they report directly to the CEO

  • Those surveyed said that CIOs in 2024 need to exhibit a range of tech and business traits, including enabling transformation and innovation (59%), delivering topline value (57%), and serving as change agents (54%)

Deloitte's CIO Program conducted a survey outlining the views of technology leaders in the U.S. about their near-term priorities, performance, and the characteristics necessary to address today's most pressing business issues.

Why this matters
As technology continues to transition from being a tool for conducting business to becoming the business itself, tech is at the forefront of CEOs' minds. The majority of CEOs surveyed (57%) plan to embed new technologies in their business model to find opportunities for growth, further validating that this is the golden era of the CIO.

Nearly two-thirds of technology leaders surveyed report directly to the CEO, highlighting how the CIO role is being elevated within businesses. Of those surveyed, most have a CIO or CDIO (83%) in their organization with the CTO being the next most common (52%). Of publicly traded companies, the primary technology roles are CIO/CDIO (57%) and CTO (35%).

CIOs should exhibit a range of tech and business traits, including enabling transformation and innovation, delivering topline value, and serving as change agents. Tech leaders should show up differently to help bridge the gap between ambition and execution and drive business value through emerging technologies. Learn more here.

The CIO Check List: Top Priorities
The increased importance of technology often means CIOs have an expanded mandate. They need to work to meet the role's operational responsibilities while also creating advantage by driving business outcomes. Tech leaders surveyed selected the following as their organization's top three priorities for this year:

1. Emerging technology: Staying ahead of emerging technologies and solutions (ex. AI/GenAI, Quantum, AR/VR, etc.)
2. Data and artificial intelligence (AI): Embracing the full potential of data, analytics, AI and machine learning
3. Cyber Security: Mitigating cyber risks and preventing cyber incidents and attacks
3. Advocating tech strategy (TIE)Organizing, managing, and rationalizing technology strategy inside the organization

Despite the rise in, and focus on, AI, only one-third (35%) of technology leaders said that embracing its potential or that of data, analytics, or machine learning is their number one priority. Furthermore, only 30% of respondents reported having a chief data/analytics officer (CDAO) within their organization and 28% of respondents acknowledge that their organizations are at the forefront of these technologies.

Company size also seems to impact the focus on cybersecurity, with two in five CIOs and technology leaders (43%) at companies with 10,000+ employees saying mitigation and prevention of cyber incidents is an important priority, while only one-quarter (26%) of leaders at companies with less than 10,000 employees say the same.

Key quote
"How technology leaders balance growth priorities with the risk implications of emerging technology matters more than ever," said Lou DiLorenzo Jr., National U.S. CIO program leader at Deloitte Consulting LLP. "Beyond the ability to articulate the interplay between technology and business value, they should also demonstrate a command of how issues like cybersecurity, privacy and consumer trust manifest are maintained."

Today's CIO: Technology-centric or business-minded?
The research further supports the importance of technology within organizations as nearly two-thirds (63%) of technology leaders surveyed now report directly to the CEO. Within the technology and energy/chemicals industries, this number is even higher with more than 4 in 5 CIOs/CDIOs in these sectors answering directly to their CEO.

The role tech is playing within business also seems to be impacting the expectations of tech leadership. When asked to rank the defining characteristics of a leading CIO, respondents were split between the conventional (those viewed by themselves and others as running IT) and contemporary (those embracing the opportunity and reinventing the CIO role), saying the traditional, more IT-centric qualities are just as important as the strategic and more customer-focused ones.

Conventional CIOs

Contemporary CIOs

A technical guru (46%)

A change agent (54%)

An expert in providing internal technology
support (55%)

An expert in working directly with clients

Mitigates risk (50%)

Takes risks (50%)

Achieves operational efficiency (41%)

Enables transformation & innovation (59%)

Manages bottom-line cost (43%)

Delivers topline value (57%)

A leader in technology (59%)

A business leader (41%)

Executes business priorities (51%)

Influences business strategy (49%)

Key quote
"The role of the CIO has evolved significantly; merely being the technical expert within the organization is necessary but insufficient," stated Anjali Shaikh, managing director and U.S. CIO Program Experience director at Deloitte Consulting LLP. "Today's CIOs may need to primarily be business and people leaders - a stark departure from the role's expectations three decades ago, which primarily centered on technology delivery. In an era where technology is the backbone of business, tech executives who adapt to change and foster a growth-oriented mindset are likely better positioned to propel their businesses toward competitive edge and innovation."

Opinions on the required characteristics for CIOs uncovered some nuances by company size. Technology leaders at large companies may be called upon to take more risks for their organizations. When selecting the most in-demand traits, more than half (59%) of respondents from large companies (10K+ employees) selected risk taking as a characteristic of a CIO versus 43% of respondents from small companies (5K-9.9K employees). Additionally, tech leaders with small companies were more likely to say that CIOs should be experts in providing technology support (60%), while those at large companies lean toward tech leaders who are adept at working directly with clients (51%).

CIO Enterprise-Assessment: Strong Points and Areas of Development
Deloitte's survey revealed a gap between what CIOs prioritize and execute, with one-third or fewer CIOs give their organizations an "excellent" grade in how they are executing against top CIO priorities. About one in ten grades their organization as "lagging" or "failing" on top CIO priorities. 

Below are the top areas where technology leaders say they believe their organizations are leading the way and where they feel they are trailing competitors or at serious risk:

Leading Edge

  1. Talent Management (34%): Attracting, engaging and reskilling technology talent

  2. Optimizing IT Strategy (32%): Organizing, managing, and rationalizing technology strategy inside the organization

  3. Sustainable IT (32%): Impacting environmental sustainability through technology and data

Trailing Their Competitors or at Serious Risk

  1. Risk Management (12%): Mitigation of cyber risks and prevention of cyber incidents and attacks

  2. Growth Strategy (10%): Establishing innovation capabilities to drive growth

  3. Keeping Current (10%): Staying ahead of emerging technologies and solutions

Key quote
"The job of a CIO today isn't easy – it's a dynamic, demanding, and critical role that shapes the future of the organization," said John Marcante, CIO-in-Residence, Deloitte U.S. CIO Program. "As technology and corporate strategy become more intertwined, CIOs can be indispensable members of the executive team who can serve as the primary drivers of growth while ensuring efficient, secure, and nimble operations."

In addition to rating their organization's ability to execute against 10 leading CIO priorities, respondents were also asked about the biggest personal barriers they face in their role. The breadth of responses indicates how difficult and expansive the role has become; CIOs aren't facing just one challenge when it comes to developing and executing the strategic direction of technology within their organizations; they're facing many.

The biggest barrier those surveyed cited is measuring, communicating, and demonstrating the value of technology (15%), followed closely by integrating technology across the organization (14%), finding time to stay updated on innovative technologies (13%), and having the needed capacity and resources to deliver technology capabilities (13%).

We conducted an online survey among 211 U.S.-based CIOs and technology leaders from February 9-18, 2024. Participants were screened based on title, company size, company revenue, and responsibility for setting the strategic direction of IT within their organization.