23rd February 2023, Sydney, Australia – Following a survey of 178 Australian Chief Information Officers (CIOs) representing organisations responsible for 23% of Australia’s GDP, eight percent of Australia’s workforce, and 18 government organisations, local IT research and advisory organisation, ADAPT, has today released the results of its 2023 CIO Edge survey.

Archie Reed, Research Director at ADAPT, says 2023 will demand deeper technical literacy from company leaders as they jostle for the advantages offered by emerging forms of technology:

“Digital savviness is the level to which the CEO and board are able to understand and maximise the value from digitisation, and is what’s needed to tie tech projects to big-picture goals. Without it, companies will fall behind in the emerging tech arms race, and many leaders will keep seeing IT as some mysterious department costing them lots of money, and not as the engine room likely making the difference between strategic success and failure”.

Little progress made over 12 months in “digital savviness” stakes

On average, CIOs consider just 44% of their Board and C-Suite digitally savvy, a mere one per cent increase from ADAPTs 2022 CIO Edge survey, while they consider just 49% of their employees digitally “fit”, with “fitness” describing their ability to understand and effectively use digital tools to carry out their work.

CIOs continue the digital literacy fight as budgets increase

According to the survey, the top four tech investment priorities for CIOs in 2023 relate to the development of digital skills across their entire workforce. 73% of CIOs indicate planned investment in leadership development, while 72% will invest in the digital upskilling of staff, and 68% in both the development of an “IT culture”, as well as cybersecurity awareness training. Reed believes CIOs are right to be prioritising the digital literacy of their teams: “Our Exponential Value Roadmap shows the most successful companies, those that grow revenue and profits fastest, are able to quickly drive change thanks to the top-down support of leadership. Without a digitally savvy leadership team, companies suffer the consequences of failed tech projects and leave way too much value on the table. The best IT leaders prioritise the education of their CEO and Board through deep-dives linking digital goals to the wider strategy of the business, because they understand that it’s ultimately through the support of leadership that they can reduce waste across the organisation, prioritise cyber resilience, successfully deploy emerging tech, embrace data-driven decision-making, and beat the competition with new products and services”.

Appetite for emerging tech increases

While digital savviness and fitness lag, more Australian companies are leaning into the adoption of emerging technology as tech budgets increase. 52% of IT leaders expect to see growth in their allocated budgets over the next twelve months, while 28% expect little change, and 20% of respondents believe their budgets will be reduced. 47% of CIOs now say their organisations are using chatbots, with an additional 27% piloting the technology. Further rates of emerging adoption can be seen in Figure 1.

Reed says the take-up of emerging tech is encouraging, but warns that without the “fundamental, the supporting infrastructure of a robust IT culture”, many initiatives will fail: “Those pain-free IT projects returning immediate value that CEOs dream of can only materialise when company leadership understand how to drive successful adoption of the technology through the entire breadth of their workforce, which needs to be digitally fit in its own right”.

Cybersecurity surges ahead as top business priority for CIOs

Ranking seventh in ADAPT’s 2022 CIO Edge survey, “building a trusted and secure organisation” is now the top business priority for Australia’s CIOs. The following top business priorities involve improving operational effectiveness (82% of respondents), optimising costs (76%), attracting & retaining talent (75%), and creating a data-driven organisation (74%). Reed says it isn’t hard to see why cybersecurity reached the top of business priorities, but reminds companies they can’t just “buy” cybersecurity without first cultivating a digitally fit workforce: “Employees are a company’s first defence against cyber threats, but it’s up to CIOs to decide whether they are our strongest or weakest link in the chain. Leaders of highly cyber-resilient organisations understand this well, and should continue to drive their resources into the cyber preparedness of their teams, as commercial success will increasingly come from being viewed as a trusted organisation”.

Media Contact media@adapt.com.au