CIOs have a key part to play as Chinese enterprises start looking to IT for business growth and global competitiveness.

June 2013 | by Driek Desmet, Kevin Wei Wang, and Chenan Xia

As Chinese organizations move from early-stage businesses to large global players, IT will need to play an increasingly important and strategic role. However, a 2012 McKinsey survey on business technology in China, undertaken in collaboration with Peking University, finds that Chinese enterprises continue to spend less than their global counterparts when it comes to IT investment. What’s more, many Chinese CEOs and business leaders view their IT function as good at helping to run the business but not strong at helping to grow it.

Indeed, the results of the survey show the majority of corporate IT investment in China remains skewed toward improving operational efficiency. Comparatively little investment is directed to delivering customer-facing, top-line pursuits. Such pursuits could include digital-sales channels tapping big-data analytics to improve the customer experience (Exhibit 1) or leveraging social media for marketing of products and services.

Exhibit 1

The IT function excels at internal business-process improvement but not at supporting external customer- and market-facing initiatives.



TKey survey findings

Exhibit 2

Approximately 40 percent of surveyed CIOs take on business roles beyond IT, and that number is expected to grow.


Exhibit 3

Adoption of emerging technologies varies widely.

About the authors
Driek Desmet is a director in McKinsey’s Singapore office, and Kevin Wei Wang is a principal in the Shanghai office, where Chenan Xia is a consultant.
The authors wish to thank Peking University and its Guanghua School of Management and the Center for Informatization and Information Management for their support. The authors also thank McKinsey’s Harrison Lung, Janet Tang, Eileen Tu, Jason Wang, and Ryan Yang for their contributions to this article.