Forum: It’s MIS 100 time again – with insights

IT activity and responsibility grows. But is the CIO being downgraded?

Every year, our sister publication CIO undertakes what can only be considered a phenomenal research effort: it interviews, profiles and lists the top 100 IT user organisations in New Zealand.

This effort culminates with the publication of the MIS 100 issue, out now, and is celebrated with an accompanying event. The MIS 100 was born as an MIS 50 in 1997 and has over the past decade become a real asset and resource to the industry.

At first the research was centred on ranking the organisations and finding out a bit about them: what their priorities and challenges were. But, as time went on, it was realised that if you are going to contact each and every one of the 100 largest users of IT in the country, you may as well seek some further insights into the way corporate IT is developing.

Last week, as I have done for the last few years, I delivered some of those findings to the MIS 100 event in Auckland. They certainly provide food for thought.

The top 25 users this year averaged 9,104 computer screens each compared with 8,517 each last year. The second 25 were also up, from 3,253 to 3,424. Similarly the next 25 and the next again. Across the board, New Zealand organisations were managing around 10% more client hardware this year than last.

That’s what a relatively healthy economy and ongoing growth in the government sector can do.

What is perhaps more surprising, given the constant drive to do more with less and the ongoing issue of the skills crunch, is that IT staffing levels show a very similar pattern. Average IT staff in the Top 100 were up, well up, on the year before.

This year the average IT shop in the 100 had 173 staff, compared with 121 last year. That seems an astonishing increase on the face of it, but there are some enormous projects underway right now and recruitment activity has been intense.

The MIS 100 uses the data described above to create a rough and ready benchmark of IT efficiency. We wrote a very complex and top secret algorithm for this (number of screens/number of staff). As you might expect from the above, IT efficiency, on that measure at least, has gone down.

The average number of screens supported last year per IT staff member was 31. Today it is 23. Once again, project activity will explain some of that, but if you have any other theories, drop me a line.

We also take a closer look at project activity as part of this unique, local research project. We categorised projects by type and charted the year-on-year changes.

Only two out of 12 categories showed a decline in activity: wireless and ERP. The leaders in growth terms were, in descending order, unified communications, knowledge management, business continuity and mobility.

Quite simply, there is a tremendous amount of investment activity going on out there. You ain’t half a busy lot.

So, there is more staff and more work and you are transforming your businesses. It’s all good, right?

Sadly there is one worrying sign: just at this time when you might expect the CIO’s star to be shining, there are signs the position is, as it’s put in the MIS 100, “devolving”. More CIOs are reporting to the CFO and fewer to the CEO or even the board.

Am I the only one that sees something wrong here?

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