New Roles, New Responsibilities: Today’s CIO

Check out new researchon CIOUpdatethat puts the CIO at the center of the IT innovation debate!

The CIO position is changing in response to a turbulent, hypercompetitive business market, in which organizations increasingly turn to technology and business process innovation to gain competitive advantage.

According to a recent Meta Group study leading CIOs are playing dramatically more influential business roles than they have at any time in the past. The study’s findings reveal a new class of CIOs — executives that recognize the new demands of the position and are committed to being enterprise change-agents.

“Savvy CIOs have demonstrated their transformational value to senior management during the past three years, even while operating during a down economy,” said Graham Waller, senior vice president with Meta’s Executive Directions advisory service.

“They have forged collaborative relationships with their business peers based on their ability to make hard decisions within the ITO and bring productivity insight into the business organization,” continued Waller. “In short, CIOs have … become more business-savvy.”

The study, The CIO As Enterprise Change Agent, surveyed over 100 senior IT executives in order to assess the evolving role of the CIO. And these findings underscore the new CIO business mandate.

New Responsibilities

Almost half (47%) of those surveyed indicated they have broadened their responsibilities beyond the traditional CIO-only role to absorb some form of business responsibility.

In fact, many of those now occupying the CIO position (35%) have come to the role of senior IT decision maker with a business background. However, whether from a business or IT background, the majority of CIOs agree that over the next two years, the most important aspect of their roles will be that of change-agent.

The study also noted that the most critical success factor for the CIO to operate effectively as a change-agent is collaborative executive leadership.

While it is important that CIOs exhibit leadership authenticity in the change-agent role, respondents stressed that transformation success will not be realized without commensurate leadership from key business executives.

In addition to serving as an effective catalyst for change, CIOs must also play a key role in seamlessly integrating the key components of business transformation: technology, processes, and people.

“Leading CIOs are now entering an era filled with great promise, whereby there is a growing opportunity to partner closely with the business and drive transformational capabilities,” said Waller. “However, the role of the change-agent is dense with both opportunity and risk. To mitigate risk, CIOs must ensure that success factors are entrenched in the organization before spearheading change initiatives. Perhaps more important, smart CIOs will also prepare for and guard against transformation barriers.”

Institutionalized Barriers

Study respondents repeatedly cited three primary obstacles to transformational success: an internal culture resistant to change, organizational politics, and the existence of too many conflicting priorities.

Many CIOs also cited the relative immaturity of business process and the people aspects of change management as significant hurdles. Indeed, 79% of those surveyed indicated they will be targeting business process capabilities as a focal point for improvement over the next two years.

The recently completed study also provides CIOs with recommendations for serving as an effective change-agent in the years ahead. The recommendations are meant to help the CIO navigate the complex transformation waters while still being attentive to his or her core IT duties and mindful of the common change-agent pitfalls.

These recommendations include:

  • Ensuring the “IT house is in order.”
  • Respecting the difficulty of behavioral transformation.
  • Leveraging the CIO’s unique position to create business value.
  • Becoming an expert on your industry’s value chain and competitive dynamics.
  • Influencing your CEO to create the proper climate for change.

    “In this new market reality of rapid change and ruthless competition, CIOs have been given the opportunity, and in some cases the mandate, to take on increasingly business-centric transformational roles, concluded Waller.

    “In accepting this challenge, CIOs must proceed with caution, understanding the risks inherent in major transformation. However, they must also embrace the opportunity, since it provides a CIO with a means to underscore the value of IT to an organization and contribute to breakthrough business performance.”

    About the Study

    Meta Group launched this multi-client study on the role of CIO as enterprise change-agent during the summer of 2004. Data was collected from 115 respondents, primarily CIOs and senior IT executives, through a Web-based survey.

    Another round of more detailed interviews was then conducted with a subset of CIOs that exhibited use of best practices. The driver for these interviews was to gain insight into their “real world” experiences. A handful of these interviews were later developed into case studies to highlight examples of various aspects of the change-agent role.