Public sector CIOs see their role and IT as the key source of innovation for their organisations, the Global CIO survey from Capgemini Consulting has revealed. The third survey titled The role of IT function in Business Innovation – Operator vs Innovator, surveyed 395 CIOs.

The financial services industry follows the public sector in confidence towards the CIO role. Both sectors also demonstrate a trend towards KPIs for IT innovation. Capgemini reports that 81 per cent of public sector CIOs believe that IT is critical to business innovation. Only one in four though believe their IT is actually driving business innovation.

The Capgemini survey highlighted the changing behaviour of users. New members of the workforce are using new technology to innovate for themselves with no help from the IT department. This poses a challenge to the department’s role.

There are CIOs leading innovation, and the survey identified 18 organisations that have an above average innovation rate. The traits these companies exhibited were: an understanding of IT by business leadership, an effective relationship between IT and the business; strong delivery of fundamental IT services; the CIO reports to the CEO or COO and not the CFO; and 88 per cent described themselves as a business partner rather than a supplier in their relationships.

Outsourcing was seen as beneficial to innovation, with 72 per cent of respondents saying it enabled them to focus on innovation.

“For CIOs, managing the balance between cost containment and continuity whilst driving competitive advantage is a constant challenge,” said Eric Monnoyer of Capgemini. His organisation believes the change in user behaviour towards innovation without the involvement of the IT department poses a threat to the CIO, who they warn could become spectators instead of leaders.

Capgemini recommends that CIOs must analyse where time and money are spent and ensure that supply of fundamental IT services is split from innovation, as well as linking technology directly to innovation rather than cost.

Surveys for the report were conducted between August and November 2007.