CIOs are struggling to introduce innovative strategies and services as they battle with operational issues, a new study has found.

The pressure to keep costs down, maintain a consistent infrastructure and innovate has left many CIOs “flat-footed”, playing “a catch-up game” in a bid to integrate new innovations rather than driving them, according to research house IDC.

The cross-sector, US-based report found that the majority of CIOs viewed themselves as operational rather than drivers of innovation.

However, a majority of other “line-of-business” execs view the CIO role as being about innovation.

A November report from Colt found that CIOs in Europe feel more vulnerable than they did five years ago.

The studies come as telcos, in common with other industries, attempt to become more digital companies.

[Read more: Telefónica looks for new lease of life with “100% digital” strategy]

Mike Jennett, Vice President of Research for Enterprise Mobility at IDC, said: “CIOs who stay operational will find themselves further marginalised over the next three years.

“For these executives to stay relevant, they must shift their focus to transformation and innovation and incorporating those innovations into their stable infrastructures.

“'Just keeping the lights on' will lead the business to find other sources for technology leadership and innovation.”

According to Jennett, there has been a “fundamental shift” in the role of CIOs as seen by themselves and the business because of the emergence of new digital technologies.

But he added: “While many CIOs have embraced this change, there is still a large percentage that will benefit from evaluating their organisations as well as their relationship with their business counterparts as they continue on this journey.”

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