by Maryfran Johnson

CIOs Still Need to Strengthen the IT-Business Connection

Jan 04, 20152 mins
CIOCollaboration SoftwareIT Leadership

Our 14th Annual State of the CIO research reveals glaring disparities between what CIOs think they're delivering and what business people think they're getting from IT. CIO Editor in Chief Maryfran Johnson urges CIOs to 'mind the gap' in 2015.

You’re a CIO who understands the business. You’ve fixed the biggest IT pain points in your company. You’ve delivered ‘quick wins’ to your colleagues. You’ve urged your staff (repeatedly!) to focus on customers.

Your business colleagues should be suitably impressed. Alas, they are not.

Our 14th Annual State of the CIO research and feature story (“CIOs: Time to Snap Out of Complacency“) reveal a number of glaring disparities between what CIOs think they’re delivering and what business people think they’re getting from IT.

We found those perception gaps while working with market research firm IDC (a sister company of CIO), which surveyed 304 non-IT business decision-makers on some of the same questions we posed to the 558 IT leaders who completed our State of the CIO survey. The skewed perceptions of each group are actually more instructive than discouraging, however.

“What this means for the future of the CIO will depend on how CIOs manage today,” writes Managing Editor Kim S. Nash. “Minding the gaps we’ve identified can provide touchstones for 2015 and beyond.”

Consider the gap between these two data points: While 33 percent of CIOs agreed the IT group is often viewed as an obstacle, 54 percent of business leaders thought that was true. They want CIOs to simplify technology and reorganize IT for easier access. They also want to see a lot more IT focus on external customer concerns.

Some of your favorite conventional wisdom may need a refresh, as well. Our survey found 51 percent of CIOs to be big fans of delivering “quick wins” to improve IT-business relations–yet only 31 percent of business people find that tactic effective anymore. Sustainable change makes a more lasting impression, says CIO Jack Wood of online retailer Wayfair. His multifaceted approach to improving relationships includes an 800 number and a single point of contact to make working with IT easier.

“The idea that business and IT are separate is not healthy,” adds CIO Bill Swislow of He sends IT staffers out on sales visits to car dealerships and has them shadow customer-service agents in the call center.

As sobering as our State of the CIO survey data may seem this year, you’ll find plenty of encouragement and insight in our story from CIOs who are minding the gaps and strengthening the IT-business connection.

Resolve to do the same in 2015.