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Expert Talk

Securing Utilities Infrastructure

As a highly critical sector, the oil and gas infrastructure should be one of the most secure, both physically and digitally. This is not the case.

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Senior executives say their enterprises will be impacted by an economic downturn in 2012. According to a survey by market analyst Gartner, 85 percent of CEOs surveyed, believe 2012 is the year of living hesitantly. Although, concerns are less severe in Asia/Pacific and North America than in Europe and Africa, it is the dominant point of view within each of the three geographies.


“Costs are now the second biggest priority area,” said Mark Raskino, vice president at Gartner. “Yet, CEOs seem determined to maintain a growth posture as their first priority for now. The geographic expansion is the primary growth approach.” While the economy is certainly a concern for chief executives, CEOs are willing to increase IT investment this year.


The intention to invest in technology is healthy. The newer trends, such as mobile and cloud, are rising to the foreground of CEO’s attention. However, CRM remains CEOs’ favorite IT capability. According to Gartner, the difficulty with investing in newer technologies for strategic outcomes is that organisations need the right kinds of leadership and change management.

Many business leaders learned the hard way in the 1990s and 2000s that simply buying and installing technology doesn’t deliver results,  if it’s not  delivered in conjunction with coordinated changes to policies, processes, organisation, roles and culture. “More purposeful, structured innovation management could be one way to make technology investments pay off,” Raskino said.


“We see strong CEO intention toward improving it in most sectors, but not in financial services — where, perhaps, regulatory compliance is simply overwhelming all other strategic change thinking.” Ninety percent of CEOs can name a company they admire for its use of IT in gaining a competitive advantage. However, when restricted to their own industry, a quarter cannot.

Apple eclipsed everyone as the most admired company for its use of IT, followed by Google  and Amazon. Gartner’s survey results also showed CEOs are advancing innovation management, but many face a digital business strategy gap. Overall, innovation management is advancing with few CEOs cutting innovation, and approximately half the CEOs saying they are investing more.

However, a quarter indicated they still don't address it as an explicit discipline. CIOs and CEOs should discuss with each other what new information would help them manage the business better through hard times. Most companies have weak management formalism over information strategy and governance; however, information variety, complexity and volume are rising exponentially.

Muddling through without discipline will soon start to leave major companies vulnerable to new entrant competition. CIOs should spearhead the development of an information strategy for their firms, concentrating, in particular, on new kinds of information that may lead to industry disruptions and transformations.

The survey results showed most CEOs still regard their CIOs as itinerant specialists. The role needs development attention. The CFO was, by far, the most cited close strategy advisor to the CEO. In an age of such digital disruption to business, many CIO roles remain underinvested.

Most CEOs thought the best next step for their CIOs would be to do the same job in the same industry or in another industry. Few thought they would move on to a business leadership role. CEOs should re-examine the role the CIO plays in business innovation and strategy. As the information age progresses, the risk of being blindsided by new forms of digital competition is rising.


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