Gartner Says Only 12% of Infrastructure & Operations Leaders Exceed CIO Expectations

A recent Gartner survey found that most of today’s I&O leaders face numerous headwinds when it comes to delivering CIO expectations.  IDN reviews the findings and shares Gartner’s suggestions for how I&O leaders can improve their impact on their organizations. 

Tags: Gartner, I&O, infrastructure, operations, survey,

Cameron Haight, Gartner
Cameron Haight
VP Analyst

"I&O leaders must support senior leadership by proactively contributing to their organization’s ability to navigate economic uncertainty, Their destinies are interlinked."

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As 2023 ends, most enterprise IT professionals who focus on infrastructure and operations (I&O) admit a range of difficulties are preventing them from meeting their organization’s needs, according to a survey from Gartner Inc.


In specific, Gartner’s survey found only 12% of I&O leaders rated their function’s performance as “exceeding CIO expectations.”  The survey went on to list several of the “top external threats” or “headwinds” facing I&O leaders. Among them:  

  • cybersecurity risks
  • supply chain disruptions
  • a shortage of skilled workers and/or the inability to hire new talent and
  • overall economic conditions and inflationary pressures   

“I&O leaders must support senior leadership by proactively contributing to their organization’s ability to navigate economic uncertainty,” said Cameron Haight, VP Analyst at Gartner. “Their destinies are interlinked, as a failure by the business to execute the proper strategy will have repercussions across the organization.”

Further complicating matters, I&O professionals also cited ongoing budget stresses, according to Haight, who shared trends on I&O budgets from the report.

41% of I&O budgets increased -- but stayed steady relative to inflation.


37% of I&O budgets were either cut or stayed steady -- but declined in real terms due to inflation.


Only 27% of I&O leaders’ budgets increased and grew relative to inflation.

“I&O leaders are also being asked to meet organizational expectations with funding that only keeps pace with inflation at best,” said Haight. “While it remains to be seen what 2024 budgets will look like, the lack of real funding growth observed to date could cause projects to be deferred into next year, causing a cascading appropriations challenge. Given this scenario, I&O leaders must work smarter to achieve business outcomes with fewer resources.”

Gartner Advises 3 Keys To Help I&O Leaders Overcome Headwinds

Notably, based on the survey findings Gartner also advises three (3) recommendations to improve the impact of I&O organizations. “I&O leaders that leveraged these practices were three times more likely to help their enterprises better navigate a turbulent economy,” Gartner said.


These suggestions embrace a multi-disciplinary focus, and include:


1. People & Talent:  I&O leaders often face challenges recruiting and retaining the necessary talent to achieve their objectives. Within I&O teams that were rated as the most effective, 84% of leaders reported building a welcoming and inclusive workplace. Furthermore, 79% of I&O leaders at highly effective organizations ensured the holistic wellness of employees by holding them accountable for personalizing their well-being progress.


2. Process (in Support of Technology Adoption):  Gartner shared strategies of top I&O leaders who have success in maximizing the impact of technology and other investments. One impactful key (often overlooked) is “undertaking actions that improve I&O efficiency through enhanced analysis capabilities, Gartner reported


According to the Gartner survey, 89% of leaders in highly effective I&O organizations formulate strategies for process transformation and optimization, and 82% identify opportunities to reduce technology costs through economies of scale or cross-enterprise synergies.


3. Better IT/Business Linkage:  Gartner also suggests that effective I&O leaders find ways to become “full-fledged partner in digital business activities,” connecting-the-dots between such I&O and/or IT investments and business outcomes.


To enhance their contribution to the organization’s digital business strategy, the survey found that 92% of effective I&O leaders foster better coordination of I&O digital investments across lines of business or product lines. Additionally, 84% apply objective analysis to translate enterprise priorities into investments that advance digital business potential, and 79% provide a common language for business and I&O stakeholders to coordinate digital investment decisions.

Gartner’s Added  Insights for Achieving ‘I&O Automation’ 

In December, during Gartner’s IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference (IOCS) conference, Gartner experts also offered insights on another I&O success factor – how to achieve I&O automation.


Successful automation is imperative for I&O leaders to meet expectations for service quality and sustain the pace of operations, according to Gartner senior director analyst Chris Saunderson.  “By 2027, heads of I&O who focus on enterprise-wide automation delivery will double the value delivered by service quality and cost improvement efforts,” he predicted.


During his presentation, Saunderson shared how leaders can deliver cost improvements by strategically planning by using a principal-based “automation-first” approach:


Among the principals, he listed:

  • Treat automation as a product. Practice iterative development and rapid innovation, and test, release and validate with your customer — even if you are your own customer.
  • Develop a phased strategy. Pilot cross-domain I&O automation, communicate the value returned and continue to deliver.
  • Sense and adapt to changes in customer needs. This is how you ensure you’re delivering value to your customer and spending resources wisely.
  • Be value-focused: Identify the value and the beneficiary of an automation activity, then confirm that the product you deliver generates that value.
  • Constantly adjust and adapt. Respond to changes in your business, technology, and people topologies.

The Gartner I&O survey was conducted from April through July 2023 among 122 I&O leaders from enterprises in North America, EMEA and Asia/Pacific whose growth was impacted by external threats in 2022 and 2023. Gartner for Infrastructure & IT Operations Leaders helps heads of I&O reinvent how they deliver value for the business.