CIOs not yet sitting at the top table

Information is accepted as the life-blood of any business – in many ways information is the business. Information technology stores, manages, processes and provides this information, and its importance has been recognized by the evolution of a new C-level position: chief information officer (CIO) often with overall responsibility for the general concept of information and the specific realm of IT. Yet still, the CIO and IT in general is often perceived as a support function for the business, not yet welcome at the top table of the business.

This is the conclusion of Ernst & Young’s new report, The DNA of the CIO: “Too few CIOs are currently regarded as true members of the executive management team. This limits their potential for change. Many CIOs nowadays appear to be C-level in title only...” The report, an analysis of responses from 300 senior IT professionals and in-depth interviews with 25 CIOs and 40 other C-level executives shows that while 60% of CIOs think they add strong value to fact-based decision-making when setting corporate strategy, only 35% of C-suite peers agree.”

The report is a wake-up call for CIOs. “To help them steer the business, CEOs are in clear need of ‘co-drivers’ who combine technology expertise with business skills,” explains the report. But the status quo must change. “In order to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving technological landscape, CIOs will need to break out of their comfort zones within the data center. Those who don’t, will run the risk of being further relegated down the corporate hierarchy, or sidelined altogether.”

Maureen Osborne, Global CIO of Ernst & Young, confirmed. “Future CIOs will need to be able to show proactively how IT can be used as a source of innovation within the business, rather than merely a support function.” The route may be to drive through a major business project, which can, in turn, make a specific impact on how the rest of the business operates. “The value of this is clear,” she adds. “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.”

How to get started on this route is perhaps surprisingly easy. “Topping the list of things that CIOs ought to do to gain promotion is to network and build relationships,” suggests the report.

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