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Who’s in Control of Technology Budgeting? Not the CIO, and That’s Okay

Many C-suite leaders, in non-tech roles, say they will be more involved with IT decisions over the next few years.

Non-IT business leaders are having greater influence over the technology used to enhance the customer experience.

The numbers

  • Only 30% of CIOs believe they own or influence more than half of their company’s tech budget
  • By 2027, the majority of tech budgets will live with lines of business (LOB)

Behind the numbers

Tech leadership responsibilities are being increasingly shared and democratized across the C-suite and with LOB leaders. This trend has accelerated as business units gain influence over the technology they use, and are empowered to more quickly implement technology that serves their and their customer’s specific needs.    

What you should do

More than ever, technology investments must drive specific business outcomes. That said, companies should prioritize building what research company IDC calls a “digital dream team,” where the chief information officer focuses on scaling innovation and integrating technology with business units, and digital initiatives are jointly owned by IT and business units. Technology budgeting, in effect, becomes as much a business decision as a tech one. 

Innovate around your customers

To be truly customer-centric, you must unite your teams and bring your customers into the center of everything. Easier said than done, right? This playbook shows you how to change mindsets, build trust, be digital-first, and much more.

Democratize IT decisions

In an IDC study, many C-suite respondents in non-tech roles predicted they’d be more involved with IT decisions over the next few years. The reason? To remain competitive, all business units must find ways to provide personalized products, services and experiences.

This shift was reinforced by recent research on the evolving role of the CFO, which showed them taking on broader responsibilities beyond finance, to managing customer experiences, leading strategic shifts, automation, and more. 

“We’re seeing more influence come from outside of IT, where the CIO orchestrates technology across the business, and [technology decisions] are a collaborative conversation with business leaders who are focused on outcomes and customer centricity,” said Teodora Siman, research manager for the C-suite tech agenda at IDC. 

Consumers are still spending, albeit more cautiously and judiciously, which means business leaders must deliver digital experiences that add value versus chasing what’s trendy. 

Indeed, in IDC’s most recent C-Suite Tech Agenda survey, improving customer-focused digital experiences was the top technology priority. 

“Centering the conversation on the outcomes of technology helps bridge the gap between technical and non-technical executives, which ultimately drives better results for both the customer and the overall business,” said Siman.

Set your teams up for success

Want to save money, improve results, and become more productive? The right technology investments can help.

LOB and C-suite leaders don’t need to have coding or engineering skills, but they do need to understand, at a strategic level, how technology (particularly emerging technology) can impact the business. The old axiom that CIOs needed to “speak the language of business” has evolved such that, now, business execs must speak the language of tech. 

“Enterprises have the opportunity to work faster and smarter, led by the non-IT employees they already have,” Borya Shakhnovich, CEO of the software company airSlate, recently told Forbes

Make technology budgeting a business decision

Worldwide enterprise tech spending will top $4.5 trillion this year. Much of that spending will be on software applications — a lot of software applications. MuleSoft’s 2023 Connectivity Benchmark Report found the average company has more than 1,000 different applications across different departments. 

“Many of these systems are poorly connected,” Vala Afshar, Salesforce’s chief digital evangelist, recently wrote, referencing the MuleSoft report. “The same research shows the resulting data silos are a barrier to creating integrated user experiences for 90% of organizations.”

Not addressing these issues could cost companies millions and result in greater inefficiencies. 

As business leaders have greater sway over technology, the CIO’s role is evolving to become a conductor, orchestrating technologies across business units to avoid the inefficiencies and misalignment described above. 

Ensure every business leader understands tech

According to IDC, lack of technical knowledge in the C-suite is the second biggest hurdle to completing digital initiatives. For that reason, tech literacy is a required management skill. According to Sophia Matveeva, CEO of Tech for Non-Techies, that’s not as scary as it might sound. 

“Leaders don’t need to learn how to code. Instead, they need to learn how to work with people who code,” she wrote. “This means becoming a digital collaborator and learning how to work with developers, data scientists, user experience designers, and product managers.” 

At the same time, in its annual State of the CIO survey, research firm Foundry found that 68% of CIOs are taking on responsibilities outside the IT domain, including revenue-generating activities and developing and refining business strategy. 

IDC forecasts that by 2026, 40% of all revenue by the Forbes Global 2000 companies will be generated by digital products, services and experiences. Digitally savvy line of business leaders tend to understand their customers’ needs, and are well positioned to make technology decisions to serve them best. 

Lisa Lee Contributing Editor

Lisa Lee is a contributing editor at Salesforce. She has written about technology and its impact on business for more than 25 years. Prior to Salesforce, she was an award-winning journalist with and other publications.

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