More CIOs Are Gaining Stature As Business Strategists

CIOs are earning business credibility, sharpening customer focus and raising IT’s strategic profile, according to our 2013 State of the CIO survey.

Wed, January 02, 2013

CIO — The measure of a CIO is in how everyone else in the company views the IT organization. Many CIOs strive to create an IT group that is the department people call first when a new business idea strikes. Even better: They strive to be there at the idea's birth. Building such a strategic IT group takes time and tactical smarts--and it's a journey of increasing importance, according to our 12th annual State of the CIO survey.

For more about our State of the CIO research, check out a breakdown of the Future-State CIO, or view a slideshow showcasing our findings.

Sixty-four percent of the 563 IT leaders we surveyed plan to focus on marketing the IT department in 2013, to show the business more of IT's capabilities. That's up from 55 percent in 2012. Results from the past three years of surveys suggest that CIOs are increasingly taking steps to solidify or elevate their team's relationship with business stakeholders by delegating more, developing leadership and cross-functional skills among their IT staff, and turning their attention to customers. One-third of CIOs now visit customers, up from 18 percent two years ago.

"With credibility," says Warren Kudman, CIO at the $8.1 billion Sealed Air, "you can then have conversations with business partners about opportunities to differentiate [your company] through technology or even new lines of revenue that are IT-enabled."

But not everyone is there yet. It's heartening that 20 percent of CIOs say their IT groups are seen as business peers who develop, not just enable, business strategy. However, the majority remain in the muddled middle: 32 percent as influential collaborator on IT, 26 percent as service provider and 15 percent as cost center. Still, we're seeing a shift to the advanced end of the spectrum. The business strategist tally of 20 percent, for example, is up from 15 percent in last year's survey, while the 15 percent cost center assessment is down from 21 percent.

Many of the mobile and analytics projects CIOs plan for 2013 may enhance perceptions, conceived as they were in cooperation with business partners and aimed at high-visibility targets such as customer-experience improvements. Tom Farrah, CIO at Dr Pepper Snapple Group, has begun mobility and visual analytics work after sending IT people to the field to understand how sales agents and truck drivers work. "Our job is to help our sellers sell and drivers deliver," he says.

Clean, clear thinking from the CIO about basic corporate goals helps keep IT from drifting into nonessential areas. But, our survey shows, CIOs are learning they must also employ a variety of management tools to support the mission--and enhance their own value.

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