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CIOs embrace AI, but worry about app sprawl and talent gap

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The corporate landscape is witnessing an influx of new apps, yet the paramount focus is on consolidation and simplification.

According to CIOs, the global market is experiencing an acceleration in the introduction of new applications, with 78% anticipating the adoption of 30-60 new apps in 2024. However, this surge in applications has led to a challenge for 88% of CIOs, as they grapple with application sprawl—the proliferation of individual applications in the workplace.

The Harris Poll survey, commissioned by Canva, delves into how CIOs across nine countries, including Australia, are handling application sprawl and decision-making concerning workplace tools in the era of AI. Here are the key findings for Australian respondents:

As the number of apps continues to rise, IT teams find themselves overwhelmed, emphasizing the growing importance of simplicity and user-friendly tools. The need for consolidation is spurred by stretched IT teams facing an exponential increase in apps to manage. A staggering 74% report insufficient staff to train employees on new apps, dedicating over half of their time to educating employees on new technologies. This leaves limited time for essential tasks such as planning, innovation, and other business-critical work.

In response, 37% of CIOs express significant concern about the escalating complexity, driving their strategic plans to reduce it. A notable 58% are gearing up for some level of consolidation, with 23% eyeing substantial levels.

While AI dominates the mindshare of CIOs, identifying the right tools proves to be a challenge. Despite concerns about application sprawl, 96% of CIOs plan to increase their budget for AI investments, with over half (52%) projecting budget increases of more than 50%. The perceived benefits of adopting AI include time savings on creative or strategic tasks (49%), aiding in app consolidation (53%), and offering greater insights for informed business decisions (50%). However, the challenge lies in the overwhelming availability of AI tools, causing confusion and overlap for employees, as acknowledged by 95% of respondents.

The integration of AI is a top priority for CIOs, with 88% strongly agreeing that AI tools can significantly enhance their role and employees’ experiences. However, challenges such as integrating AI (37%), access to IT talent (35%), and data security (25%) are prevalent. Despite these challenges, 77% of CIOs affirm having robust guardrails in place to ensure the safe and responsible use of AI.

Cameron Adams, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Canva, comments on the intricate balance CIOs must strike: “The balancing act CIOs face is unenviable: innovate with AI but don’t contribute to app sprawl.” Adams highlights the desire among CIOs to be agents of change and innovation, selecting technology that maximizes organizational impact while streamlining costs and reducing complexity.

In the pursuit of productivity tools that enhance workplace efficiency, today’s CIOs are navigating the challenges posed by the proliferation of AI-powered tools. Within the design and creative ecosystem, the deep fragmentation of such tools hampers workforce needs and potentially impedes the adoption of cutting-edge technologies. To address this, Canva introduced Magic Studio in 2023—a secure and user-friendly platform consolidating the best AI-powered design tools, aimed at empowering individuals, teams, and enterprises to create visual communication at scale.

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