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CIOs Line Up Top Issues in '06

Leveraging IT to help grow their company's business tops the agenda for Chief Information Officers, according to a survey of some 1,400 CIOs just released by Gartner.

The study included CIOs from more than 30 countries worldwide.

While such core issues as security and cost controls remain a concern for CIOs, the Gartner study revealed that making their businesses easier for customers to deal with by improving business processes is a top business priority for the second consecutive year. Controlling enterprise operating costs and security technologies ranked second among the CIO's ranking of top ten business and top ten technology priorities respectively.

"The interesting point is to note how technology issues go through a cycle where it's assumed to be part of the core technology, Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research for Gartner's Executive Programmes unit told internetnews.com. "Security has gone through that cycle faster than anything else we've seen. Companies expect their CIO to keep operations secure and spending on security is still healthy."

The Gartner study indicates CIOs see themselves facing three critical challenges in the year ahead:

Strengthening the information value chain.

Building IT business skills.

Getting closer to customers.

Perhaps indicative of a certain healthy paranoia, two thirds of CIOs believe their competitors make better use of information. The CIOs surveyed see a need to make their communication and collaboration more dynamic, based on ongoing business needs rather than on annual planning cycles. Seven out of ten survey respondents said they need to build new business skills in IT focused on delivering business results.

Gartner said major goal for CIOs in 2006 must be to change the conversation between IT and the business from one based on "what IT can do for me" to "how will we solve the problem together."

"CIOs who are doing this effectively today enjoy a deeper business relationship, report to the CEO, and play a greater role in strategy formulation and major decisions," said McDonald. "The distinctions between companies using technology effectively and those that do not are becoming clearer for the CIO and for the business."

Although business concerns over security breaches and disruptions fell from second last year to the seventh highest ranked priority for this year, Gartner said it remains an important issue. "It indicates that in 2006 the business expects IT to be secure and is looking to the CIO to keep it that way," said Marcus Blosch, vice president and research director at Gartner EXP.

Overall, the survey found that IT spending on security related tools remains healthy at a projected average increase of 4.5 percent in 2006.

Gartner said the CIOs surveyed in their report, "Growing IT's Contribution: The 2006 CIO Agenda." represent more than $90 billion in IT spending.