• René Koets, Partner |

Boards are ramping up investment in data security and privacy to become GDPR compliant, according the 2018 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, to avoid data breaches which have reached an all-time high. In Switzerland, half of the survey participants were still GDPR non-compliant as of 3 April 2018.

CIOs have a difficult tight rope to walk. One the one hand, they’re asked to drive innovation, promote transparency and ensure the responsible use of customer data throughout the organization. On the other, to improve reporting on cyber security, data integrity and resilience. Getting the balance right – between innovation and governance – is where today’s CIOs can make an impact.

The 2018 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey takes a close look at how CIOs are getting to grips with this new balancing act. Presenting the views of 3,958 technology executives from 84 countries – including Switzerland – it’s the largest IT leadership survey ever undertaken.

Taking a look at shifting board priorities, the race towards GDPR compliance and the struggle to find talent in emerging technologies and big data, some of the critical insights from the survey include:

Dealing with digital

More organizations have digital strategies than ever before, but how effective are they? To help with digital success, chief digital officers (CDOs) are proving their worth. Compared to global peers, Swiss organizations are more likely to have a dedicated CDO (Switzerland: 15%; Global 11%). The report also shows that the most influential and successful organizations are fanatical about delivering value both to and from their customers – globally, ‘Customer centric’ organizations are 38 percent more likely to report greater profitability than their competitors.

Still, moving towards 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 37 percent stating that they do not have a clear digital business vision and strategy.

Ramping up for GDPR

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, nearly half (47%) of the Swiss organizations surveyed in April expected they would not be GDPR compliant at the deadline.

Trust is the new battleground for IT, as organizations delicately balance the revenue-driving potential of utilizing customer data with the need for privacy and security. The drive towards 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 globally.

Shifting operational priorities

Protecting the business from a cyber attack has jumped further up the boardroom agenda than any other item and IT leaders are being encouraged to make their defences the best that they can be.

The survey found 40 percent of the 126 Swiss respondents are prioritizing improvements in cyber security as cyber crime threats reach an all-time high, while managing operational risk and compliance has also become a significantly increased priority (28%). These two areas represent the fastest growing IT priorities of Swiss boards.

More Swiss IT leaders are ‘most concerned’ about the threat of organized cyber crime than their global peers (Switzerland: 85%; Global: 77%). But only one fifth (21%) of both Swiss and Global CIOs state that they are well-prepared for a cyber attack.

Finding the right skills and talent

Almost two-thirds of Swiss companies (61%) say skill shortages are preventing them from keeping up with the pace of change. When it comes to emerging technologies, 38 percent struggle to find talent in Artificial Intelligence and 27 percent can’t find the skill set necessary for Automation and Robotics.

For the fourth consecutive year, big data and analytics is the number one skill in short supply (46 percent). Nearly one-third of Swiss companies (32%) can’t hire and develop the people with the digital skills they need.

Female IT leadership continues on an exceptionally slow upward trend, this year the global figure rose to 12 percent (Global) – up from 10 percent last year. In Switzerland, women represent just 15 percent of technology teams, slightly less than the global figure of 21 percent.

The industry appears to be significantly divided on the extent to which diversity matters to business success. Just over a quarter (29%) of Swiss IT executives say inclusion and diversity has no bearing on achieving business and technology objectives. Fifty-three percent report it has some influence, and 19 percent say inclusion and diversity impacts business and technology objectives to a great extent.


The seemingly inevitability of a cyber attack has now crossed firmly over the threshold for board-level discussions. Like their global peers, Swiss CIOs are under rising pressure to strike a difficult balance between innovation, cyber security and governance. It’s a tall order. But it’s also high time to take action as trust is essential for business success and the health of our digital economy.

View the CIO Survey Infographic (PDF)

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