State of the CIO 2014: The Great Schism

Digital strategist or traditional CIO? Our 13th annual State of the CIO research reveals the great career divide.

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The Sidelined CIO

A substantial minority of CIOs say they feel sidelined. These same CIOs struggle with innovation and see an increase in shadow IT.

What you imagine for your professional future influences how you perform today. For some CIOs, things look dark: 28 percent say the CIO role is being "sidelined" and 52 percent say the CIO's future will be one focused on managing contractors, cloud and other IT service providers, according to our 13th annual State of the CIO survey.

Although they're in the minority, that sidelined 28 percent are worth some attention. Their behaviors and attitudes may indicate serious, but perhaps correctable, organizational problems. For example, those CIOs who say the IT group is perceived by colleagues as a cost center are much more likely to feel sidelined. They're probably under intense pressure to cut IT costs from old-school CEOs and CFOs. That's no fun. Nor is it good for the future of the company as business goes digital. Some CIOs are ready. Others clearly are not. Many are stuck somewhere in between, struggling with internal politics and old-style thinking, as well as with external economic and competitive forces they haven't seen before.

In higher numbers than the rest of our respondents, sidelined CIOs say they're asked to be innovative but aren't sure how to do that (52 percent versus 37 percent). Innovation may not be easy, but CIOs have an important role to play.

CIOs who feel sidelined control less of the IT budget than average among our sample of 722 IT leaders, and they're much more likely to be watching shadow IT increase. Overall, they spend more time on cost control, security and negotiating with vendors, and less time leading change and driving business innovation.

How can a sidelined CIO break out? There's no question that the CIO role is more challenging than ever, in part because anyone who shops at Best Buy suddenly thinks he can set corporate IT strategy, says Rich Adduci, CIO of Boston Scientific. Instant experts don't bother him, however, because he's willing to listen--to a point. "Let people have a voice, but don't lose your own," he advises.

Mentoring at all levels of the IT organization may help, says Rick Roy, CIO of CUNA Mutual. "We've got to increase the pipeline of tech graduates from school and then get deliberate about rotating technology leaders out of IT for part of their careers," he says. "We're creating leaders of the future."

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