As cloud computing pushes IT into a more strategic role in the organization, many IT leaders are turning their focus from day-to-day operations to revenue generation projects. According to a recent survey of IT leaders from Harvey Nash and KPMG, the majority of respondents report that the CIO’s role is becoming more strategic (65%), despite the fact that fewer CIOs are members of the board, possibly due to the growth in Chief Digital Officer roles throughout organizations.

The Harvey Nash and KPMG study found that the most successful CIOs focus more on revenue generation than inward-facing activities. The survey found that the top priority for “digital leaders”—those who rate their organizations as very or extremely effective for advancing their business strategies with technology—is developing pioneering new products. This rings true in customer-centric organizations as well.

Additionally, the survey also found that almost half of IT leaders (49%) saw budget increases. IT itself is moving away from being a cost function, according to KPMG. In the Technology sector, the top IT priority is to develop “innovative new products and services,” which is pushing IT leaders toward projects that increase revenue: creating products and improving customer service.

“Being the CEO of an SEO services company for almost a decade, revenue-generating projects are not a new thing to me,” said Sean Si, CEO and founder of SEO Hacker. Firmly in the technology sector, Si is always on the lookout for software that can help his company serve clients more effectively.

One of the ways oMelhorTrato, a financial products comparison site for Latin American consumers, refocused its IT efforts on revenue generating projects was to close three internally-facing projects and move the programmers to five new projects. One of the outcomes was a chatbot leveraging artificial intelligence that helped increase sales, according to Cristian Rennella, CIO and co-founder.

“I estimate that this tendency to go from internal-facing projects to revenue-generating projects will continue for five more years, especially while continuing to improve the quantity and quality of services that exist in the cloud today,” Rennella said.

IT departments are also expanding. Respondents to the survey reported a 47% increased department headcount. To SEO Hacker’s Si, hiring new employees means new ideas—but retaining employees is also critical for revenue generation. “Most of them are already experienced and can handle any situation that might happen…[and] have already serviced numerous clients,” he said.

Based on the survey results and what IT leaders are saying, CIOs today are more outward-looking, focusing on the customer more than before. This is likely why there has been a subtle shift toward projects that generate revenue, whether they’re self-service customer options like chatbots or developing products for customers. Ultimately, it seems like IT leaders who are able to shift the focus from day-to-day operations—“keeping the lights on”—to creating real value and ROI for the business are the ones that will help the business eclipse competitors.


»Watch next on Emerge: RBS drives innovation with existing IT spend (video)