by CIO Staff

Identity Crisis

Jan 01, 20073 mins

We began this year’s “State of the CIO” project with this premise: As the CIO role has matured, it’s branched into four distinct archetypes rather than (as once was thought) evolving into a one-size-fits-all model. This is important to understand because in the not-too-distant past there was lots of talk (and research) about what an “ideal” CIO should look like, and CEOs seeking IT leaders chased that ideal. But many of those models were superhero caricatures for super-IT-enabled businesses—a nice fantasy but hardly reflective of reality, either then or now.

The result has been too often a mismatch between what a company thinks it wants and what it really needs. CIOs hired into those situations risk failure—not because they’re not good, but because their talents and skills either don’t match the real needs of that organization at that time or, frustratingly, because they do, and the business’s leaders just don’t know it.

The pursuit of a nonexistent CIO ideal has also led to something of an identity crisis among CIOs who, for example, might be brilliant at the operational aspects of IT but are neither innovators nor change agents. How can they live up to an idealized caricature that calls upon them to be both?

That’s what prompted us to define our four CIO archetypes: the Business Leader, the Turnaround Artist, the Operational Expert and the Innovation Agent. We felt we could better serve our community, better design our content by a) acknowledging that these different roles exist; b) analyzing their nature; and c) providing CIOs with a more realistic and useful image of who they are and what they can be. This work is meant to represent the reality of our current environment—the State of the CIO in 2007.

But a funny thing happened as we sifted the data. While the archetypes are solid, we discovered that CIOs did not fit neatly into any one camp. Less a portrait of individuals and more a Venn diagram of the CIO role, our data revealed that the archetypes frequently overlapped each other. So as you answer the question posed on our cover, “What Kind of CIO Are You?” you’ll likely discover a primary identity along with one or two subordinate ones. (Check out our self-assessment tool REPLACE PAGE REFERENCE WITH LINK TO THE QUIZ.)

This issue is the result of five months of hard work by Executive Editor Christopher Koch plus a great team of researchers, writers, editors and designers. Koch led this year’s project and spent countless hours poring over the data and figuring out the most useful and interesting ways to present it all to you. We hope you like it.

IT is nothing if not dynamic. And the CIO role continues to evolve even as I type these words. To help you stay on top of not only where things are but where they’re going, the CIO Executive Council is developing a model for the Future-State CIO; look for that to be unveiled at the CIO Leadership Conference April 29–May 1 at the Hyatt Huntington Beach Resort in California. The information is at