Looking Back: The Growth of the CIO Role and IT Value

From green screens to flat screens; from a desk in the basement to a seat in the boardroom. Twenty years in review.

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Becoming Leaders

While it’s now widely accepted that IT does matter (a lot), IT and the CIO role have lots of room to grow. “This is a very young profession,” says Forrester’s Orlov. “It’s not as evolved as finance, marketing or sales.”

Even with their comeback from the era of disappointment established (a CIO’s average tenure has grown from four and a half years in 2004 to five years in 2007, according to CIO’s “State of the CIO” survey), CIOs are now preparing for their next challenge: an ever-changing, partner- and consumer-driven Web 2.0 world of Web-based applications, converged mediums, telecommuters and security vulnerabilities, all at their digital doorstep. Which means CIOs must adapt—again.

A recent IBM survey of 170 global CIOs found that “their business leadership is calling upon them not simply to be efficient, but to help their companies change the entire game.” Research from IBM’s Institute for Business Value found that 80 percent of CEOs believe very strongly that the integration between business and IT will be a critical enabler of running businesses. “But only 45 percent thought that integration was taking place at an acceptable level in that business today,” says George Pohle, VP and global leader of the institute. If, in some companies, the CIO role isn’t as defined as it should be, Pohle says that CIOs need to assert themselves. “This isn’t about waiting for the business to ask you what role to play,” he says. “You should be telling the business the role that you should be playing.”

CIOs interviewed for this article all stress the importance of developing the next generation of CIOs, who will need to possess the skills not just to keep pace with the business and its technology desires but also to drive the business forward. “The game is going to be very different over the next 10 to 20 years,” Cooper says, and the next generation of CIOs have to think beyond a partnership role with the business to a leadership role.

Turner sees it as an ability to anticipate challenges and “embrace disruption.”

“CIOs need to think of their role as change agents in the rest of the company—for process improvement, to find excess labor and inefficiencies, for identifying technologies that make employees more productive, or technologies that can change the rules of the game,” Orlov says.

No one should expect CIOs to shy away from these challenges. They never have.

Senior Writer Thomas Wailgum can be reached at twailgum@cio.com.


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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