Leadership investigate

Who thinks the CIO is important? The CIO, but hardly anyone else

The CIO is continuing to sell the value of IT department short, finds a new survey of IT leaders and C-level execs finds.

Who thinks the CIO knows what's best for the business? The CIO maybe, but few others, if a new survey is to be believed.

The idea that the CIO is failing to articulate the value of the IT department to business is reinforced by a global survey of CIOs and C-level execs by analyst house Ernst and Young.

While nearly two thirds (60 per cent) of the CIOs questioned thought that they "add strong value" to corporate strategy just 35 per cent of their C-suite peers agreed.

While IT has a role in nearly every area of the business today the report found that many CIOs lack the business expertise to communicate its worth to the executive team.

IT leaders are also struggling to improve their corporate reputation: only just under half (48 per cent) of the C-suite said the input of CIOs has improved in recent years, when questioned on issues ranging from product innovation to improving operational agility.

Maureen Osborne, Global CIO of Ernst & Young said: "In order to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving technological landscape, CIOs will need to break out of their comfort zones within the data centre. Those who don't, will run the risk of being further relegated down the corporate hierarchy, or sidelined altogether."

Most business leaders aim to keep any discussions with the CIO centered on IT budgets, ignoring the chance to engage in a wider discussion about the value of technology, the report found.

This lack of support from the executive team was a major issue for nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) of CIOs, and was felt to be a more acute issue in companies with revenues of over $1bn.

The CIOs surveyed felt that moving board level conversations beyond IT budgets and onto IT value will require them to engage more with the CEO and business leaders beyond the CFO.

Of course: engaging fellow business leaders is easier said than done. An executive recruitment specialist recently told TR that if CIOs are to articulate the important of IT to the CEO they must become an expert in every major domain of the business.

Dave Ryerkerk, Ernst & Young Global IT Advisory Leader said that actions speak louder than words and advised that CIOs secure "the chance to support a major business project of some kind, which can, in turn, make a specific impact on how the rest of the business operates.

"Once business leaders start to recognize an IT leader as someone who can transform the way they operate their business, perceptions can quickly start to shift. This will be especially clear if the resultant changes in the business operating model impacts top line revenue growth."

The DNA of the CIO report, is based on a survey of over 300 senior IT professionals globally, also draws on in-depth interviews with a further 25 CIOs and 40 respondents from across the rest of the C-suite.

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

8 comments
luigi.digrande
luigi.digrande

Then everyone at the C-level is looking for the CIO...oops, we didn't think he was important so we fired him.

kblack1a
kblack1a

It is no wonder that "just 35 per cent of their C-suite peers agreed". It is amazing that the CIO even got that percentage of acknowledgement from the "C" peer group. As ego centric as "C" level exec's are, they all think themselves are the only person keeping the company going, and the rest are dead wood. I also think Tazrox has a good point. The last large company I worked at, the Vice-president of technology didn't know squat about IT. His creditability was zilch to every one but his cronies.

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

I think part of the problem is that any C level executive whom is not actually hands on with real responsibilities in their area of control, is going to be disconnected from what is actually happening at the coal face. If I was starting a company right now, absolutely I would hire a CIO, but he would be a guy actually doing a lot of the work in that area himself, with his other team of experts ... in many ways they would be equals, he just happens to be the first go to guy for finding out what is happening in that area, and for disseminating requests to from other department heads. Similarly, if I was the CEO I would expect the same of myself ... I do not think there is a point in spending the kind of money it costs for any of these roles if they are not doing hands on work in addition to heading up the company ... the trick is to ensure that each department is well enough resourced that when these people do need to get away for important meetings, they have adequate team mates to take over for them on any job being done ... and of course, the most important assistant they each need, is an EA/PA ... these ladies are the ones who are the real glue in many organisations, and too many people underestimate the importance of a good one.

colinbeveridge
colinbeveridge

no real surprises here. Because the conversations are still wrongly focused on the 'value' of technology. Sadly, if experience is a guide, nothing much will change until, and unless, the conversation moves forward, by finally recognising that IT has little real business value, except as a contributory factor - in combination with people, process and organisation. The role of the genuinely effective CIO is not to justify the value of IT, or even to interpose with business strategy; it is to make sure that the organisation is coherent and congruent, internally and externally, through effective information systems.

mwclarke1
mwclarke1

Most still report up through a CFO, BAD. Some of the biggest companies may still do good business only because of their influence, positions, product in the market, but many are going out of date and way of the dinosaur with that model. If a business today can shut their data centers down and still do business for a while then maybe that will work. Otherwise IT is the new business and any business that does not recognize the importance and value the role that IT has in business and respect that at the leadership position is all doomed eventually. A company that is technology driven by its IT department, relies very heavily on its IT, needs to have a clear role in the executive leadership, and never via the Finance department, is not longer an adjunct part of any SG&A of a company but the way a company does its business now. Either A CIO role equally on par in the executive level, or at least directly reporting to the CEO, but never the CFO Now as for the experience levels, I have seen good and bad both with good amount of IT experience or not. So hard to judge any rule of thumb here, but if CIO's are going to be respected they have to be very business savvy. But many times I see CIO's that want to make all the technology decisions also and never trusting their people that need to be doing that, some think they know more than their people since they are the boss, Not always but that is where many fail. They need to drive process, projects, direction as leaders are supposed to do, hire good people and trust them to provide the information and technology directions the CIO needs and let their people do their jobs how they know how to do it best. Most do not realize, is the people in the trenches that really know how to run the business, C-execs are clueless many times, they only count the numbers, provide direction and vision. But shop off the exec head, and the rest of the company will continue on autopilot with day-to-day operations for a long time just fine

Tazrox
Tazrox

Bigger problem is that most CIO's have no IT background. I spoke to another companies CIO who I know has an IT background about the others in the monthly area CIO meetings. Out of 12 that he knows of, 2 (including himself) have IT backgrounds, all the other CIO's have to "bring someone in" to do demonstrations as they lack any ability to use the products they are talking about. As more CIO positions get filled with Business majors, the more the title will fade away.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

IT does have real business value, but only when integrated into the business. It has no business real value when considered in isolation, or perhaps it does but that is more accident than design. The conversation will only move forward when the people on both sides stop viewing the other as some sort of unnecessary overhead, better still realise that they are all on the same side. I've never seen a CIO/CTO do that, there again, I've never seen a CEO, or a CFO do that either. Seems to me CIO is getting stiffed because he's the lowest guy in the CXX food chain.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

without being very conversant with the technology of IT? If it's possible to do all that without any IT knowledge, then the same can be said of the chief finance officer and the chief marketing officer, as they only provide support services to the business as well.