Companies are quickly ramping up investment in data and cyber security, according to the 2018 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey. The survey also found shortages of big data and analytics skills in hiring and a slow upward trend in female IT leadership.

The largest IT leadership survey in the world, analyzing responses from organizations with a combined annual cyber security spend of up to $46 billion, found almost a quarter (23 percent) more respondents than in 2017 are prioritizing improvements in cyber security as cyber crime threats reach an all-time high.

At the same time, managing operational risk and compliance has also become a significantly increased priority (up 12 percent). These two areas represent the fastest-growing IT priorities of company boards of directors.

IT leaders today face the challenging task of delivering rich, customer-centric data in an environment laden with risk. Data trust and privacy threats continue to hold the attention of CIOs, but while measures to improve data security are underway within companies and through legislation such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

More than a third (38 percent) of those surveyed in April expected they would not be GDPR compliant at the May 25 deadline. Additionally, 77 percent of IT leaders say they are “most concerned” about the threat of organized cyber crime, up from 71 percent last year.

Only one fifth (22 percent) say they are well prepared for a cyber attack. The drive toward protecting data has caused a huge demand for “security and resilience” skills, which experienced the biggest jump in skills shortages, increasing 25 percent year-on-year.

Huge challenge for CIOs

A move toward digital platforms and solutions is proving a huge challenge for CIOs. While organizations recognize an effective digital strategy is critical to successful data security, many report they still struggle — with 78 percent stating that their digital strategy is only moderately effective, or worse.

More than a third of companies (35 percent) report they can’t hire and develop the people with digital skills that they need, and almost one in 10 (9 percent) say there is no clear digital vision or strategy at all.

“Data is shaping the business world from head to toe. We see it in the urgency of right now with the need to protect data privacy and ensure data integrity. We see data shaping the future as machine learning and AI advancements push beyond data analysis into a place where IT systems are combing, learning and reacting to data with strategic solutions,” said Bob Miano, President & CEO, Harvey Nash USAPAC, in a statement.

“With so much dependent on the protection and promise of data, the next five years will be a continued struggle to find, recruit, and retain skilled data science and analytics professionals.”

Lack of trust in relying on digital

“Technology disruption continues to play a significant role in today’s business environment and, while more CIOs understand the importance of implementing a digital strategy, most are still struggling with integrating digital into their core processes to address business goals,” says Denis Berry, KPMG principal and U.S. CIO Advisory leader in a statement.

“What tends to hold technology leaders back is the lack of trust in relying on digital to guide decisions. This disconnect is largely due to the absence of proper talent who fully understand how the technology can drive the business strategy. Companies who can source the right skills and establish a clear digital vision will be the ones who will benefit the most from these opportunities.”

To help with digital success, chief digital officers (CDOs) are proving their worth. Organizations with a CDO, either in a dedicated or acting role, are over twice as likely to have a clear and pervasive digital strategy than those without one (44 percent versus 21 percent). The report also shows that the most influential and successful organizations are fanatical about delivering value both to and from their customers — “customer-centric” organizations are 38 percent more likely to report greater profitability than ones that are not.

Female IT Leadership Inches Forward

  • Female IT leadership continues on an exceptionally slow upward trend, this year reaching 12 percent — up from 10 percent last year
  • Women represent just one in five (21 percent) of technology teams
  • The industry appears to be significantly divided on the extent to which diversity matters to business success, as almost a quarter (24 percent) of IT executives say inclusion and diversity has little or no bearing on achieving business and technology objectives. Forty-seven (47) percent report it has some influence, and 30 percent say inclusion and diversity impacts business and technology objectives to a great extent

Big Data and Analytics Remain the No. 1-needed Skill

  • Two thirds (65 percent) say skills shortages are preventing them from keeping up with the pace of change
  • For the fourth year in a row, big data and analytics is the number one skill in short supply (46 percent)