by Edward Qualtrough

CIO 100 – Is technology losing executive and board influence?

Apr 03, 20144 mins
IT Leadership

Almost half of CIOs report directly to their chief executive and have scheduled meetings with their CEO at least once a week, according to the latest figures revealed by the 2014 edition of the CIO 100 – and exactly 50% responded to our questionnaire that they have a seat on the board at their organisation.

A quarter of the 2014 CIO also told us that they had completed an MBA to give weight to their business credentials.

The CIO 100 is compiled each year to reveal the business technology leaders driving transformation at their organisations, and this year recognisedStephen Kneebone at Nissan, Telefonica Global CIO Phil Jordan, and Financial Times CIO Christina Scott for their leadership and change projects in the car manufacturing, telecoms and news industries.

Of the 100 technology executives recognised, 48% responded they report to their CEO, with 30% going to CFO or financial equivalent, 10% to the COO and 12% to other roles, which includes global CIOs at their organisation.

The results reveal a change from last year’s study, where 55% of the CIO 100 revealed they report to their chief executive, with 23% going into finance, 16% to the COO and 6% to a different position.

Judge and CIO columnist Ian Cox said that, despite the decrease of technology leaders answering to their CEO, the figures reveal a positive message.

“Ideally, and given how important technology is in the digital age, the CIO would report to either the CEO or COO, who have a similar perspective to the CIO right across the business and functional lines and are best placed to understand the CIO’s position, and also to provide the support, guidance and advice the CIO will need to be effective,” Cox said.

“So it is encouraging to see that 58% of the top 100 report to either the CEO of the COO. It will be interesting to see how this figures changes in coming years. If organisations understand digital and the importance of the technology I expect the number of CIOs reporting to either the CEO or the COO to increase.”

When it came to regular meetings, the figures were not much different with 49% of CIOs responding they have meetings with their CEO at least once a week, with two CIOs informing us they meet with their chief executive daily. Perhaps worryingly, however, one response said the two positions had met just once in their first six months, and another in the 100 echoed this timescale saying that they met twice a year.

Exactly 50% of CIOs told us they have a seat on board at their organisation. At first glance this is significant decrease on the 78% who reported board level influence last year. However, the 2013 question was phrased differently to include “sitting on a leadership board driving business decisions” so any meaningful comparison between the two is not possible.

In his experience as a CIO coach at large organisations, judge Ade McCormack was surprised by the figure,  but thought it bode well for the future.

“Half on the board strikes me as optimistic, although the reporting line percentages imply that it is also the case,” McCormack said. “With such good news, we should soon be exploring how many CEOs are former CIOs.”

Cox, however, suggested this figure also revealed a worrying perception about the CIO role.

“With 50% of the leading CIOs in the UK holding a board level position – this is slightly lower than those with a CEO or COO reporting line,” Cox said.

“This is perhaps a bit of a concern as being involved in the right meetings and discussions is essential to the CIO being able to play a leading role in the digital transformation of their organisation. You cannot influence strategy or shape the digital future of the organisation if you are not even in the room when it is being discussed.

“Organisations that continue to operate without their CIO as part of the board could be putting themselves at a disadvantage compared to their competitors that do include their technology leader in the top team.”

McCormack also said that while having completed a Masters in Business Administration was commendable, areas of academia that involve innovation could be more relevant in today’s changing business world.

“The MBA take up is high, which is positive as it shows a willingness to understand the wider business,” he said.

“But the danger is it encourages CIOs to think in terms of inustrial era business models, which admittedly has some mileage. But I would rather see masters of business innovation than business admin in my top team.”