State of the CIO 2016: It's complicated

The 15th annual State of the CIO report reveals that IT leaders are caught between the demand to ensure functional efficiency and security and the need to drive digital transformation as strategic business partners.

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Gwen Keraval

What can you do to get paid more, earn greater respect, gain access to more resources to address IT challenges and find career fulfillment? The answer is simple: Play an active role your company's business strategy. That's the message from the 571 executives surveyed for our 15th annual State of the CIO report.

The answer may be simple, but getting there is complex. In fact, your job as a CIO is more complicated than ever before, and the trend won't likely reverse itself in the coming year.

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On the one hand, you are expected to be the driver of enterprise digital transformations. However, on the other hand, you face a wide range of tactical challenges — from defending against increasingly sophisticated and potentially damaging cybersecurity threats to managing mass cloud migrations to leading agile development projects.

Add to that the need to work with marketing even more closely and meet with external customers more often, and it’s little wonder that  88 percent of you told us that your role is becoming increasingly challenging and 71 percent of you said it’s difficult to strike the right balance between innovation and operational efficiency and security.

Security is clearly on your mind as we enter 2016. Our survey, for example, reveals a significant increase in the number of CIOs who pay close attention to security management --  46 percent of IT executives said it is a focus, up from 31 percent.

When asked about the relationship between IT strategy and security today, as well as how you expect it to evolve during the next three years, the message was clear. Only 37 percent of respondents say IT security is tightly integrated today, but that number is expected to jump to 74 percent in three years.  

Devoting more resources to security is certainly a good thing – especially after a barrage of high-profile security incidents in 2015 exposed inadequate cybersecurity as a financial and reputational risk. However, devoting time to functional areas take away from more transformational and strategic initiatives, such working with marketing technology vendors or meeting with external customers.

While many you face a complex balancing act between business operations and IT strategy, it's in your best interest to position yourself as a strategic leader. CIOs who are strategic and transformational are significantly more likely than functional CIOs to find their jobs rewarding.

Not that you're in it for the money, but strategic CIOs also make an average of $167,000 more than their functional counterparts, and they're more like to report directly to a CEO.

For more on the State of the CIO in 2016, download our executive summary.

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And check out the first edition of CIO's digital magazine for Stephanie Overby's cover story, "Transformational CIOs juggling innovation and operations."
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