CIOs Emerging as Business Leaders

With the shift from backroom to boardroom still a work in progress, CIOs are finding their role far from defined. Suddenly, it’s no longer good enough to have a seat at the table, to build a business case, to forge business alignment, or even to bring innovation to bear, now CIOs are being pushed into the limelight; fully expected to save the day.

At least, says the Center for CIO Leadership, a global thought leadership,

research, education and outreach organization designed to advance the CIO profession.

“The CIO is the only executive that has an end-to-end view of global business processes, and thus is uniquely positioned to move from technology implementer to strategic business advisor,” said Harvey Koeppel, executive director of the Center for CIO Leadership in a prepared statement. “Now, more than any other time in recent memory, CIOs are better positioned to lead, and businesses have never been more open to the type of transformational improvements the CIO function can deliver.”

In conferences held today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Moscow, Russia, the Center for CIO Leadership announced the results of its 2008 CIO Leadership Survey. The survey represents the insights and aspirations of almost 300 CIOs from 45 countries and 32 industries across the globe, and reinforces the increasingly strategic role that CIOs are playing as leaders in their companies and as drivers of innovation.

The 2008 study confirms that the CIOs surveyed have a substantial scope of control and are among their organizations’ most senior managers. Nearly 86% are enterprise-wide or corporate CIOs and they report directly to the top executive officers. More than 40% have between 100 and 500 employees reporting to them, while 75% of respondents are at companies with at least 2,500 employees. More than half of the respondents’ companies have annual revenues above $2 billion.

Overall, the survey found four strong themes about the global CIO profession:

– CIOs are leaders in their organizations and are playing an increasingly important role in leading change. Ninety one percent (91%) of CIOs responded that they have a clear vision of how IT will drive business forward, and 90% said they lead and influence others; even without formal authority. Eighty five percent (85%) lead initiatives to ensure their organization is flexible for change.

– CIOs have a seat at the executive table, with 87% of those surveyed having strong executive relationships. However, CIOs have not yet fully seized the day—only 67% are active participants in developing business strategy.

– CIOs are emerging as leaders of innovation and bringing those ideas to the table, but there is a real opportunity remaining to fill the innovation execution gap. Less than two-thirds (63%) have successfully secured resources for innovation by identifying technology-enabled business opportunities.

– CIOs know where they need to lead their IT organizations, but continue to struggle with delegation and building the next generation team. While 93% of respondents know the critical competencies their team requires, only 64% have a plan to grow and acquire talent, and only 69% have developed a process to delegate authority to enable time for strategy.

“The results of the Center’s research are a realistic look at the life of today’s CIO and the struggles all of us go through as we move to transform the CIO’s role,” said Ed Toben, SVP of Global Information Technology and Business Services at Colgate-Palmolive. “The key areas for future success—leadership, strategy, growth and talent development—are exactly where we, as CIOs, must lead.”

CIOs in the study indicate they still tend to execute rather than plan and strategize. Only two-thirds say they have training opportunities for their leadership team and have identified a succession plan. Sixty-four percent (64%) are working towards closing the talent gap.

The survey reinforces the increasingly strategic role that CIOs are playing as leaders in their companies and drivers of innovation. The Center’s findings indicate that CIOs believe they are aligning more closely to key

business objectives and evolving their skills in change management, a departure from many similar surveys. CIOs view themselves to be engaged in the business environment, possessing a strong end-to-end view of their

business, and a clear view of IT’s role in delivering business value to customers.

The Center’s findings mirror recent research from Center partner, the Society for Information Management (SIM). SIM’s most recent annual survey finds that the No.1 hurdle cited by CIOs, CEOs and top enterprise managers is alignment between IT and the business.