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How tech leaders spend their time

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As times and job titles have changed, so has the way technology leaders spend their day.

A recent research briefing from the MIT Center for Information Systems Research reports that technology executives at high-performing companies are spending more time with customers and developing complementary enterprise capabilities, and less time collaborating with coworkers and working on their organization’s technology stack.

The research briefing by Peter Weill, Stephanie Woerner, and Gail Evans is based on surveys of executives in 2007, 2016, and 2022. Reflecting an ongoing shift in job titles, the first two surveys focused on chief information officers while the 2022 survey included chief technology and chief digital officers as well.

The survey found that the job responsibility occupying the plurality of executives’ time, running their own technology stack, saw little change in time allotment from 2007 (44% of the week) to 2022 (41%). Running their own tech function is the main source of trust and credibility for tech leaders, the researchers write.

Three other functions that compete for leaders’ attention saw more significant shifts:

  • Collaborating with business colleagues dropped from 36% to 23% over the 15-year period. The researchers suggest that this happened “because the digital savviness of their non-tech-oriented peers has steadily increased.”
  • Managing a complementary enterprise business capability nearly doubled from, 10% to 19%. This reflects the added importance of responsibilities such as risk management, data management, and digital innovation.
  • Working with external customers or channel partners increased from 10% to 17%. This stems from the growing number of digital touch points that today’s enterprises need to manage in order to sell, connect, and provide services.

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Tech leaders at companies in the top quartile for innovation reported spending more time working with customers than average, and leaders in companies in the top quartile for profitable growth reported spending more time on complementary enterprise capabilities.

The research gives specific attention to Evans, who is executive vice president and chief digital and technology officer for Disney Experiences. Compared with the average, Evans spends half as much time running technology functions (20%), having delegated much of the day-to-day operations work. In contrast, she spends 35% of her time managing business capabilities. That’s no surprise given that Evans’ teams have developed innovations such as the MagicBand+, an RFID bracelet that lets Disney guests access services without a wallet or room key.

Tech leaders who want to look at how they spend their time — and what changes they might want to make — can color-code their calendars according to the four functions, analyze the breakdown, and fine-tune as needed, the researchers write.

Read the briefing: How tech-leaders of top performing companies spend their time

For more info Sara Brown Senior News Editor and Writer