Gartner Survey Finds 84 Percent of Southeast Asian CIOs Need to Adapt Their Leadership Style to Support Digital Business

Eighty-four percent of chief information officers (CIOs) in Southeast Asia recognize the need to adapt their leadership style in the next three years to succeed in digital business, compared with the global average of 75 percent, according to a new report from Gartner, Inc. To achieve this, 69 percent said that they want to decrease their controlling approach to focus on significantly increasing their visionary and coaching attributes.

In its annual survey of more than 2,810 CIOs worldwide, representing more than US$397 billion in CIO IT budgets in 84 countries, Gartner asked how CIOs should adapt their leadership to ensure their enterprises survive and thrive in an increasingly digital world. The survey included responses from 117 CIOs from the Southeast Asia region, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“While CIOs in Southeast Asia are more bullish about digital technologies than their global counterparts, they are generally more constrained by immature digital risk management processes,” said Sid Deshpande, principal research analyst at Gartner. “To realize the benefits of digital technology investments, CIOs in the region really need to innovate on people and process opportunities.”

According to the survey, CIOs in Southeast Asia are expecting a larger increase in budget in 2015 (3.6 percent) compared with the global weighted average (1 percent). They are generally enthusiastic about leveraging the digital opportunity, where the level of business success an organization can achieve in the digital era is clearly predicated on the level of digital vision and leadership the organization possesses. Examples of top-down digital leadership in Southeast Asia include the Smart Nation initiative recently launched by the Singapore government and DBS Bank’s sustained focus on digital innovation.

The survey also indicated that 68 percent of CIOs in Southeast Asia reported that they have a deputy CIO role in place to manage day-to-day IT operations, which is a noticeable difference compared with 47 percent globally. This provides them with the opportunity to spend more time on ensuring that benefits from their investments are fully realized.

In addition, CIOs in the region spend of 50 percent of their time on average with either the board of directors, C-level executive peers or business unit leadership, slightly higher than the global average of 44 percent. While 43 percent of CIOs in Southeast Asia believe they should lead the digital change, only 15 percent of CEOs share that perspective. This indicates that CEOs view digital leadership as a team game, and they view the CIO as a “first among equals” when it comes to digital leadership.

“It is clear that CIOs in the region have the opportunity to establish themselves as digital leaders in the eyes of the CEO and business leaders,” added Mr. Deshpande. “They should sponsor and foster innovation and experimental projects around mobile, analytics and cloud, while providing visibility to such efforts among the business leadership of their organization.” 

Risk management not sufficient to support digital world

According to the survey, 86 percent of CIOs in Southeast Asia agree that in addition to the considerable opportunities it brings, the digital world is creating new, different and higher levels of risk. However, 81 percent believe their current investments in risk management are unable to keep up with the increasingdigital risk to which their organizations are exposed, compared with 69 percent globally.

“This recognition of ineffective risk management investments is a good first step toward remediating the problem,” said Mr. Deshpande. “Changing risk management approaches for the digital era will require CIOs to increase employee awareness and foster a digital risk culture within the organization. The ‘flip’ from technology to digital risk will also provide organizations with the agility to respond to unexpected risks, which was a concern for 93 percent of CIOs in the region.” 

Technology Priorities for 2015

Business intelligence and analytics tops the list of technology priorities for CIOs in 2015, followed by infrastructure and data center, both in Southeast Asia and globally (see Table 1). The results indicate that CIOs in the region are significantly more enthusiastic in their mobile approaches than their global counterparts, with mobile and cloud having swapped places to list at No. 3 and No. 5, respectively, in Southeast Asia.

Table 1: Top Technology Priorities for 2015: Southeast Asia vs. Global

Southeast Asia Global
1. BI/Analytics 1. BI/Analytics
2. Infrastructure and Data Center 2. Infrastructure and Data Center
3. Mobile 3. Cloud
4. ERP 4. ERP
5. Cloud 5. Mobile
6. Digitalization/Digital Marketing 6. Digitalization/Digital Marketing
7. Security 7. Security
8. Networking, Voice & Data Communications 8. Networking, Voice & Data Communications
9. CRM 9. CRM
10. Legacy Modernization 10. Industry Specific Applications
11. IT Services Automation 11. Legacy Modernization
12. Industry Specific Applications 12.Enterprise Applications

Source: Gartner, January 2015

Although results show very few differences between the global and Southeast Asia priorities for 2015, CIOs in the region were significantly more advanced in their view toward investments in digital technologies than the global average. Looking at business intelligence and analytics, for example, CIOs are significantly more bullish on analytics than their global counterparts, with 91 percent agreeing that they are shifting from backward-looking reporting to forward looking analytics, compared with 80 percent globally.

The increased interest in adopting a mobile-first strategy for customer-facing services is an indicator that the digital revolution is upon Southeast Asian enterprises, driven by competitive business demands. Among some of the emerging countries in the region, such as Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, rapidly increasing mobile penetration represents a means to bring entirely new customers into the reach of organizations, particularly in light of the significant mobile friendly younger demographic in these countries.

More detailed analysis is available in the report “2015 CIO Agenda: A Southeast Asia Perspective” available to Gartner clients at

This report forms part of the 2015 CIO Agenda Special Report research, a collection of research documents based on the 2015 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey, in order to contextualize and clarify the behaviors and decisions facing CIOs in a diverse range of industries and geographies worldwide. The Special Report is available on Gartner’s website at

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