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Canadian CIOs Are Transforming Business and Investing in Security

Mon, 17 Jun 2019

Canadian business models are changing as technology usage moves from tentative experimentation to large scale applications in enterprise. And, according to Gartner, CIOs are deeply invested in reshaping business practice and hold a critical position in transformation workflows.[i] The 2019 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey accumulated data from more than 3,000 CIOs across all industries, both public and private, spanning 89 countries. Of those surveyed, 176 were Canadian CIOs. 

Canadian CIO's Are Transforming Business and Investing in Security“What we see here is a milestone in the transition to the third era of IT, the digital era,” says Andy Rowsell-Jones, Vice President and Analyst, Gartner. “Initially, CIOs were making a leap from IT-as-a-craft to IT-as-an-industrial-concern. Today, 20 years after we launched the first CIO Agenda survey, digital initiatives, along with growth, are the top priorities for CIOs in 2019. Digital has become mainstream.”[ii]

Chris Howard, Vice President of Research at Gartner, says “Our survey results show that Canadian CIOs are playing an active role in business model change, showcasing the importance that information and technology (I&T) has on creating business models that were not possible in the past.”[iii] The top three business priorities for 2019 were found to be revenue and growth, digital initiatives, and operational excellence. With the increased focus on digital, it is no surprise that CIOs are becoming more involved in the business development process. “This puts CIOs in a powerful position to transform the business, and CEOs are counting on them to do so,” adds Howard.

The average IT budget in Canada rose from 1.3 percent in 2018 to 2 percent in 2019.[iv] The division of the budget is interesting as well. Gartner found that Canada is spending more on data analytics and business intelligence, cloud services and cybersecurity. The most significant leap in spending was for artificial intelligence (AI). The 2018 survey found that only 2 percent of Canadian respondents were planning to invest in AI. In 2019, that number increased to 24 percent. “AI serves as a huge opportunity for Canadian CIOs,” says Howard.[v]

AI and machine learning and the data analytics that those technologies can yield are a game-changer for Canadian businesses. Howard states, “CIOs believe correctly that data, analytics and insight are the keys to unlocking value. The volume, variety and velocity of that data are beyond human processing capabilities, so the promise of insight lies in advanced analytics and especially AI/ML.”[vi] 

We’re pleased to see that the survey also shows a clear emphasis on cybersecurity. This indicates that in light of organizations' digital transformations and AI and ML adoption, shareholders realize the necessity of creating a secure basis for digital business that protects both their customers and their organization. The survey highlights that in the majority of organizations, the CIO is still primarily responsible for cybersecurity. 

Yet, the CIO and IT department can’t provide company-wide cybersecurity independently anymore.[vii] Of note in the survey, is that 24 percent of the digitally highest-performing enterprises, cybersecurity responsibility rests with the directorial boards, not the CIO alone.[viii] Increases in socially-engineered cyber attacks, such as phishing and whaling, demand a behavioural change from all people that use company technology.

“Last year, I said that CIOs must start scaling their digital business. They excelled,” says Rowsell-Jones. He goes on to say that “This year, they have to take it one step further and put their growing digital business on a stable and secure base. Success in the third era of enterprise IT hinges on a sound strategy that combines new, disruptive technologies with a rebalancing of existing investments.”[ix]

Crafting a Stable and Secure Base

Canadian CIOs Are Transforming Business and Investing in Security[x]


The graph produced by Gartner shows the IT areas CIOs are increasing their spending in. As previously stated, BI, data and analytics solutions are in the top spot, followed very closely by cyber and information security. There is a good reason for this. Wherever large data loads are, there needs to also be robust cybersecurity measures in place. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are impacting every sector. The opportunities that this technology creates for streamlining business processes and making enterprises smarter is vast. AI and ML technologies are operating in homes, in cars, in retail through customized shopping experiences and in-store with facial recognition technology. It is supporting law enforcement and the military, infrastructure, energy, agriculture, healthcare, financial services and manufacturing – from one end of the supply chain to the other. For AI and ML technologies to work, they must be connected, and data must be communicated. This makes any business using AI and ML technology susceptible to cyber attacks. 

To effectively teach machines to "think" and "learn," they must be fed with massive amounts of data. The necessity for data makes AI and ML vulnerable. The more connected businesses get, the more cyber incidents are going to increase. That doesn't mean that AI and ML technologies are unsafe. They simply require heightened cybersecurity measures be put in place. To fully extract the value promised by BI, AI and ML, companies also need to invest in cybersecurity. CIOs know this better than anyone, hence the correlation noted by Gartner between increased spending in analytics and in security for 2019.

Investing in Security

21 percent of Canadian businesses have reported being impacted by a cybersecurity incident significant enough to affect its operations.[xi] Yet, only 13 percent of Canadian businesses have a written incident response plan in place to manage or report cybersecurity incidents.[xii] That means 87 percent of Canadian businesses are ill-prepared to defend against cyber attacks. 

In transforming their enterprises, many CIOs are guiding their organizations towards investing in the expertise of a trusted cybersecurity partner, thus ensuring they have the highest level of cyber protection in place. A cybersecurity partner will work with your company, reviewing existing security infrastructure, preparing an incident response plan, and implementing the necessary incident response tools and processes. By working with a security partner, you get specialized expertise and critical insight. Security experts strongly recommend implementing a proactive incident response plan to ensure your data is protected, and just as important, when a security incident occurs, you can mitigate the situation quickly.

The Gartner survey results show CIOs realization that it is a pay now or pay later situation. If a company is investing in BI, AI and ML, then they also need to invest in protecting all of the data that coincides. If a company spends money creating a layered and robust cybersecurity strategy now, they are less likely to pay in loss of time, loss of reputation, or incur financial penalties later.



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