What It Takes to Succeed Now as a CIO

Making business processes more efficient and end users more productive isn't enough to succeed as a CIO in today's economy, according to our 2009 State of the CIO survey.

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Thu, December 11, 2008

CIO — CIOs who underestimate the beastly U.S. economy and overestimate their own prowess risk losing their jobs in the coming year. And the count may be surprisingly high. Senior technology executives feel quite confident in their abilities and reach, according to our eighth annual "State of the CIO" study. But they may not see the dangerous gap between how they and their bosses rate their work.

At first glance, the view from the CIO seat looks lovely. More of you report to the CEO and sit on executive management committees this year, our study found. Tenure is up and so is pay. Nearly two-thirds of you also lead a non-IT function, such as operations or customer service (See our State of the CIO charts (pdf)).

Technology, you report, is core to your company's products, to your distribution and sales models—heck, even to the very ways your company defines itself against competitors. And, you say, the IT group is pretty darn good. For example, 70 percent of the 506 CIOs polled said that IT is considered an integral business partner by the rest of the company.

You got it goin' on, right?

Maybe not. This year we compared your views with those of CEOs and other business executives surveyed by Forrester Research, which asked 600 big bosses to assess the performance of IT in key business areas. Brace yourselves.

While business leaders absolutely agree that tech is important to their company's products and competitive positioning, they also say IT isn't performing as well in these areas as CIOs think. For example, 46 percent of Forrester's business respondents rated IT "fair" or "poor" at improving the quality of products or processes.

Further, 64 percent of CIOs we surveyed said senior managers clearly communicate expectations for IT. Yet many of you report spending less time and having less of an impact on the number-one element keeping your company alive: customers. Asked which activities IT had the greatest impact on in the past year, only 15 percent of you chose managing customer relationships and 11 percent said acquiring and retaining customers. Those who expected to do great work in each of these areas next year: just 17 percent.

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