By Jamie Marshall, Chief Technology Officer, Calyx Managed Services

CIOs and IT directors may be winning the fight for a seat at the boardroom table but the evidence suggests that most still struggle to exert influence over business strategy. This message emerged clearly from a recent poll we conducted at Calyx, which gauged the views and opinions of 200 CIOs and IT Directors. It highlighted the key issue: senior IT decision-makers are too busy ‘fighting fires’ and trouble-shooting IT problems, to focus on driving the business forward.

Even though nearly two-thirds (64%) of those polled sit on their company’s board, only one third (33%) of the overall sample saw driving strategic growth through technology as their most important responsibility. More significantly, even fewer (16%) actually spend their working day driving the development of business through IT. This compares to nearly half (46%) whose everyday tasks involve fire-fighting and keeping systems up and running.

The survey paints a picture of senior IT decision-makers racing around, having to manage one problem after another, frustrated at having to deal with fulfilling board-driven demands for cost-efficiencies and cost-cutting (33%); in addition to security (44%) and data management issues (60%).

So why do CIOs need to focus so much of their time and attention on keeping the lights on at all times? The main reasons are the costs of downtime, which are well documented, ranging from lost sales to reduced productivity and damage to the brand.

Even the shortest outage can be a financial disaster, so it’s hardly surprising that uptime is a top priority for CIOs. What is arguably more surprising - especially if you consider the breadth of skills needed to meet today’s maintenance and support challenges - is that many CIOs still attempt to do everything themselves, in-house.

The survey does indicate that ‘freeing up the in-house’ IT team to focus on core IT drivers as a key benefit of outsourcing. The stark truth is as many as 60% do not currently outsource to a managed services provider, a figure that rises to 79% among SMEs with under 250 staff, highlighting that many such organisations feel they have neither time, resources nor available capital to fully investigate these options.

Driving an Outsourced Approach

Maybe they would be more likely to take the plunge and outsource if they completely understood that the benefits of outsourcing are not purely around the time and cost savings that migrating to the approach can bring, nor even around robust IT security being maintained at all times, cited by nearly half of our survey sample as a key benefit of managed services. In fact, the main value comes from the technological expertise that the outsourcer brings with them. Here’s where they will find the most value and reap the most reward.

Today’s ICT demands in-depth knowledge of telephony, networking, storage and applications. It’s impossible for all but the largest enterprises to hold that expertise in-house. However, by outsourcing, organisations are gaining access to a specialist team who know these technologies inside out and can bring added value through sharing that expertise. At the same time, CIOs get the opportunity to refocus IT time and expertise on creative ideas and innovative thinking that address real operational challenges and help drive the future of their businesses.