Gartner survey finds continued CIO focus on cutting costs

Cost-cutting continues to be the top business issue facing CIOs. But IT leaders are also focusing on ensuring higher levels of information security, improving risk-management procedures and helping to foster more rapid business innovation, according to the results of a survey released by Gartner.

Meanwhile, CIOs' top IT management priorities this year include providing better technology guidance to senior executives and demonstrating IT's business value. Those findings also come from the Gartner survey, which was conducted online during last year's fourth quarter and drew responses from 620 CIOs and other IT executives worldwide.

The continued focus on reducing internal costs maps with what Bob Alsaker is seeing in his job as information systems director at American Fence Co., a Phoenix-based fence construction and rental firm. "We spent 2002 shoring up our infrastructure and reducing expenses wherever humanly possible," Alsaker said.

But Gartner said its survey, which was conducted by the consulting firm's Gartner Executive Programs unit, also reflected an increased focus on innovative uses of IT. Ellen Kitzis, group vice president of Gartner Executive Programs, said many CIOs have started looking "at the future of business as opposed to sustainability, stability and low cost."

On the other hand, Gartner said the survey results indicate that the long-standing goal among CIOs of creating a single view of their companies' customers is losing some steam. That is primarily the result of the emphasis on cutting costs and the disappointing results some users have experienced with customer relationship management projects, according to Gartner.

Alsaker said there "has been a slight increase in customer-focused initiatives" at American Fence. But because the company is still primarily a brick-and-mortar business, senior management tends to "shun any type of Web-based initiatives," he added.

One of the silver linings that of the survey revealed: The tenure of CIOs has risen from about 18 months at the time of Gartner's 2000 survey to nearly three years, said Kitzis. She added that CIOs "can't think about innovation" if they're worried about being on the job for only 18 months.

Michael Brenner, head of executive search firm Brenner Executive Resources Inc. in New York, attributed the rise in tenure partly to a desire to maintain corporate stability during the current poor market conditions. The increase could give CIOs the chance to have a more sustainable impact on companies, he added.

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