CIO Survey 2019: IT budgets beat inflation

Matthew Burbidge
By Matthew Burbidge
Johannesburg, 01 Nov 2019

Once a year, ITWeb and Brainstorm magazine take a snapshot of the IT industry; this year, it shows the industry in a state of flux, with economic headwinds and increased demands from the business.

These insights come from the country’s top technologists who completed the annual ITWeb Brainstorm CIO Survey, run in partnership with MTN Business, on how IT intersects with business. 

Key findings of the survey were unveiled in Sandton last night, showing that it has never been more important that IT help unlock value for the business.  While a half of IT chiefs now have a seat on the executive board, a quarter don't even have direct access to the board.

This was the first year in which the public and private sectors were compared, the contrasts of which were startling.

Asked to describe their relationship with the business, 22% of private sector CIOs say it is ‘challenging’, and 32% believe it is ‘excellent'. Asked the same question, 59% of public sector CIOs report a challenging relationship, and only 6% describe it as excellent.

In the same vein,  in the public sector IT  is most often perceived as just ‘technical support’,  as opposed to being a 'strategic business partner'.

When it comes to innovation, most public sector CIO lament there is no time for innovation as they are busy supporting current systems.  In the private sector, on the other hand,  just over a third of CIOs have an IT budget specifically for innovation as well as formal processes to incubate new ideas.

However, across the board, about a third of CIOs say 'there's a lot of talk, but little action' in terms of innovation. 

If one question laid bare the inherent contradictions in business today, it was the one which respondents were asked to describe the level of their organisation’s digital maturity. Only 6% describe their organisation’s maturity level as ‘fully mature’; 38% say they are ‘advanced’, and more than half (54%) admit to it being ‘basic’.

So what’s getting in the way of CIOs delivering on their mandate?

Again, lack of skills is the main concern, followed by conflicting priorities among stakeholders as well as legacy constraining new developments. Unrealistic expectations over delivery time lines is also a factor.

The results also showed that in 45% of organisations, IT budgets were up above CPI in 2019, mainly driven by increased spend on cyber security. About a third (34%) say they’re spending time on security and risk management, and governance and compliance is at 33%.

These results are echoed in the technology investments driving budget increases: cyber security tops the list at 65%, followed by data analytics (46%) and ERP/core business applications (45%). Automation and RPA are at 38%.

COJ in the spotlight

Aki Anastasiou, host of Technobyte on Radio 702 and Tech Busters on CNBC Africa.
Aki Anastasiou, host of Technobyte on Radio 702 and Tech Busters on CNBC Africa.

At the event on Thursday evening, MC Aki Anastasiou wondered aloud if anyone from the City of Johannesburg – itself a victim of a breach – was in the audience, and Cyril Baloyi, the city’s group chief technology officer, got to his feet. He said approval for the city’s cyber security plan had come too late, but the hackers had not been able to penetrate its central system. He said that before his appointment a year ago, there had been no permanent head of IT in Johannesburg.

“It’s only myself, and one director. Everyone else is acting. I was shocked,” he said.

“We’re fully aware that we have loopholes,” he said. He’s upgrading systems at the moment, and said some systems were still running on Windows XP.

CIOs comment

Nomonde White, joint CIO of infrastructure services at Absa.
Nomonde White, joint CIO of infrastructure services at Absa.

Anastasiou also polled some CIOs on their experiences and invited Martin Mirero, from Kenya’s Huduma secretariat, Mothibi Ramusi, the CIO at the National Lotteries Commission, Alexander Forbes’CIO Sandra La Bella and Nomonde White, the joint CIO of infrastructure services at Absa, onto the podium to discuss the results.

La Bella said she spends a large part of her day concentrating on cyber security, ‘to make sure we’re not the next COJ’.  She said she believed that, contrary to popular belief, there are excellent IT skills out there, one just has to work hard to identify suitable candidates -  she said she recently hired a CISO after conducting 19 interviews. 

Sandra La Bella, CIO of Alexander Forbes.
Sandra La Bella, CIO of Alexander Forbes.

Ramusi, from the lottery, says he spends most of his time engaging with his colleagues around technology and has just upgraded his organisation’s infrastructure.

“We’ve been operating in a siloed environment. But I’ve now automated all our business workflows through an ERP that we’ve deployed.

“You can imagine, not everyone understands how an ERP works. I find myself doing a lot of teaching and mentoring.”

The commission also plans to move to the cloud, and, from April next year, would be providing all its services online.

Huduma provides a single point of contact where Kenyans can be served by between 40 and 50 government agencies. Echoing the survey’s results, Mirero said it was ironic the public sector was perceived to be an ‘operational shop’ despite it being at the centre of driving transformation of citizen services.

White, from Absa, said she spends a lot of time making sure the bank’s staff are focused on the objectives they need to deliver.

“It’s critical to make sure you take your people on the journey,” she said. “Most of the time we assume that everyone in the business, from the most junior staff member, understands what you’re trying to do, and that might not be the case.”

To view the Brainstorm CIO Survey 2019 presentation slides, click here.


The ITWeb Brainstorm CIO Survey, run in partnership with MTN Business, is now in its sixth year. It captures input from South African CIOs and provides unique insights into the tech strategies of the country’s top private- and public-sector organisations.

The 2019 survey was conducted during August –October and captured input from close to 200 CIOs. The key findings were revealed at the annual Brainstorm CIO Banquet, on 31 October 2019.

The full research report will be published on ITWeb and Brainstorm in early 2020.

To view the key findings presentation slides, click here.