CIOs have mobile on their minds, but mobile application development is only a piece of the digital media strategy that has firmly taken root in the CIO agenda. More than half of the 2,400 surveyed CIOs and IT leaders are promoting the use of mobile phone apps and tablet apps, according to the recent CIO Survey 2012 by London-based Harvey Nash Group LLC. What's more, almost a majority of CIOs are positioning social media as a strategic initiative, according to the international recruitment agency. Anna Frazzetto, senior vice president of Harvey Nash USA's international technology solutions, remembers when social media was a security taboo among Harvey Nash USA's CIO clients.
In this Q&A, Frazzetto explains why CIOs and their business counterparts are focused squarely on digital media. According to Frazzetto, "digital media" encompasses a business' online presence -- from mobile applications to social media technologies -- for competitive gains and innovation.
Why are digital media projects becoming so dominant in terms of creating business innovation?
Anna Frazzetto: When you compare year-over-year, digital media strategy has grown the most significantly as far as areas and focus for CIOs. A lot of that has to do with the way our world has evolved in the sense that we are more and more in tune with social media. Before social media was more on a personal level, being able to use Facebook or LinkedIn to professionally network. Now it has crossed the bridge into the business world. Facebook is not just for personal use. Social media is a new way of communicating, and there is a lot of pressure on companies [to have] that digital media presence. And, it’s across all sectors. Before it was mainly geared around the media sector itself where it branched off and created a digital arm. Now, financial services, pharmaceuticals -- companies across the board -- need some sort of digital presence, whether it be a mobile-friendly website or mobile apps. And you need to create mobile apps that work across different operating systems and tablets … it just mushrooms from there.
Is the use of social media among your clients moving beyond revamping the businesses' online presence or developing communities?
More on mobile application development
Why you might not want to develop a mobile app
Crafting a mobile app strategy isn't easy
Getting the jump on mobile computing? Too late, you're already behind
Mobile app creation: A guide for CIOs
CIO wisdom: Smartphone apps need to add value
Frazzetto: I see postings on Facebook or LinkedIn with a senior executive asking questions like, "Hey, we've come across this problem and we're wondering if anyone has seen something similar?" And this chat session is created between peers across different industries and sectors. Groups are being set up by CIOs to communicate on a regular basis. Clients are posting skill sets on LinkedIn that they need. It's a new way of recruiting and it’s a new way of solving business problems. It's a new way of finding alternatives in how they're approaching their business.
Are CIOs putting an emphasis on a digital media strategy to gain a competitive advantage?
Frazzetto: One of the key findings of the survey was a focus for CIOs on projects that get the business to market sooner, and one of the key tools to drive that are the digital media avenues. For example, 57% of the CIOs are promoting the use of mobile phone apps, 55% are promoting tablet apps and 45% are strategically promoting social media. I remember three years ago when you mentioned social media to CIOs, they would view it as a security taboo and companies were locking down. It's a 180 degree turn around, with IT leaders pushing it forward.
It makes sense. Everyone shops or looks for answers today using some kind of online tool, and they're on their iPhone oriPad or Android. So if you're not playing in that digital media space, then you’re missing a window of opportunity and competitive edge.
What types of mobile apps are topping the list for CIOs?
Frazzetto: There is a focus on customer service to get to the client sooner and faster; making it easier for the client to respond or to pay a bill on an iPhone, for example. Anything that makes it easier for a customer to access data, process the information and respond to the information.
If you're not playing in that digital media space, then you’re missing a window of opportunity and competitive edge.
Anna Frazzetto, senior vice president of international technology solutions, Harvey Nash USA
On the back end, there definitely has been a significant push on business intelligence because in order to [improve customer service] I need to know my audience. I need to have intelligence around my users and how I make the process easier for them so they're not re-entering information every time they use my app, for example. You do that through having the right access to business intelligence and harmonizing the data in such a way that enables that type of interactive session with the user.
Given the skills shortage coupled with a 14% increase year-over-year demand for mobile solution skill sets according to your survey, are you finding that CIOs are choosing to outsource mobile app dev?
Frazzetto: The skills shortage -- almost half of the CIOs surveyed believe that a shortage of key skills is preventing their organization from keeping pace with change -- is driving companies to look at onshoring or offshoring. Some of our clients, for example, felt that mobile app dev was too new to outsource, so they tried to develop their own mobile app dev strategy, but then they recruit for the talent and can't find it. Six months go by and they start to look at outsourcing instead because there is that talent available outside of the states. In the U.S., we're just not graduating students that want to be in the math and science and technology arenas versus other countries. We are in the single digits, versus other countries. Vietnam has 89% of their students graduating in math and science; that's a big difference when you compare it to 8% or 9% in the U.S.
With the pressure of getting to market first and faster to beat the competition, you can't wait for the talent to be grown domestically.
While 43% of the survey respondents said IT and marketing share responsibility for the digital media strategy, 10% of the IT leaders said they were completely in charge of the digital media strategy.
Frazzetto: In my experience, we have not seen it work when the CIO is 100% in charge of the digital media strategy from beginning to end without the input from the marketing side. I know some clients that started that way who had to go back and revamp their go to market strategy because they left out some key components from the marketing or business side. I wonder if we dug a little deeper into that [10%] stat if it could be a smaller size company in which the CIO wears multiple hats and the lines are blurrier as to who owns what; marketing may be part of their responsibility.
Half of the CIO respondents said they are working on projects that grow revenue as opposed to save money. What factors are causing this shift?
Frazzetto: I think we have just hit the surface of that. In a few years that number will grow more and more. It's reflective of the world we live in today where so much is dependent on technology. Digital media strategy could never take place if IT was not involved in driving that strategy forward. Building mobile apps that have a direct link to revenue generation for most organizations couldn't be done if IT wasn't involved.