Taking the Temperature of the CEO-CIO Relationship

Organizations still have plenty of work to do in building a strong business and IT coalition, according to new research by Diamond Management & Technology Consultants. Here's a look at the state of the CEO-CIO union, from the front lines.

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Business executives are very confident in the company's IT capabilities.

Half of our respondents think the business leaders have either neutral or negative attitudes in terms of IT's capabilities. My colleagues, Peter Weill and Jeanne Ross at MIT's Center for Information Systems Research, believe that service delivery is the basis for everything else. Before worrying about improving program management or executive dashboards, make sure that the basic IT services are in order. The CIO at a beverage company, for example, was having significant support issues with her peers in the business units. As a result, she set-up a "concierge" service specifically to deal with their needs and questions. This may seem extreme, but it reduced the noise and improved buy-in.

Our CIO is recognized as a BUSINESS leader, not just as a leader of IT.

Less than half the survey participants say the CIO is recognized as a business leader. This is mind-boggling—is the head of HR a business leader? Maybe he or she is just a "people leader," not a business leader. This is Exhibit A for why the "business-IT" line of demarcation needs to be erased once and for all. I believe the way a CIO allocates time is directly related to "business'" perception of the CIO. On that note, I plan to dedicate an upcoming article to how CIOs spend their time.

The CIO lacks productive working relationships with the business leaders.

Forty-seven percent say they have neutral or negative perceptions of the CIO-business working relationship. This makes me wonder which among the following might be going through respondents' heads as they answer this question: "This is a problem and I should do something about it." "The problem is on the other side. When will the business (or IT) get its act together?" Is the onus solely on the CIO to develop a good working relationship? This reminds me of my mom saying "it takes two to tango" when I would get in a fight with my sister.

The value gained from IT in an organization depends on everyone's ability to understand it and access it. The attitude and culture required to embrace IT starts at the top. With all the talk in Washington of politicians reaching across the aisle (or failing to do so), these initial Digital IQ results show us that "bipartisanship" between business and IT could still use a boost as well.

Chris Curran is Diamond Management & Technology Consultants' Chief Technology Officer and managing partner of the firm's technology practice. He writes the CIO Dashboard blog at www.ciodashboard.com, and can be reached at Chris.Curran@diamondconsultants.com or @cbcurran on Twitter.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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