by Abbie Lundberg

A Call to Action

Dec 17, 20072 mins
CareersIT Leadership

The State of the CIO is... mixed.

Not all CIO jobs are the same. The needs and IT maturity of companies vary widely. You wouldn’t expect a mining operation and a financial services company to want or need the same kind of CIO. That said, each year there are fewer and fewer businesses that couldn’t be improved with IT and by CIOs who know the score.

So last year we began reporting our annual State of the CIO results not just by industry and company size but by different types of CIO. This year, we aligned our types with the CIO Executive Council’s Future State model, developed last year by a group of leading CIOs.

The model includes slices for these three segments of the CIO role: Function Head (operational excellence), Transformational Leader (driving change through business process transformation) and Business Strategist (focusing on IT-enabled business strategy to drive top-line results).

So where are we today? According to this year’s “State of the CIO” survey—a comprehensive look at how 558 CIOs spend their time, what their priorities are, how much money they make, what kinds of budgets they control and more—37 percent of CIOs fall into the Function Head space, 51 percent are acting as Transformational Leaders and a minority (12 percent) fall primarily in the Business Strategist part of the model.

As organizations mature, as the profession evolves, we expect to see those percentages shift until, eventually, most CIOs will spend the majority of their time in the business strategy space, as the authors of the Future State model envisioned.

But there are other differences between CIOs, not necessarily based on company need or organizational maturity. As Senior Editor Kim Nash writes, “For some CIOs, there’s no separation between IT and business, while for others, a gulf undercuts their ability to do, or even define, their jobs.” This is bad for CIOs and for business, and we have some suggestions for what to do about it. (See her story here)

It’s time to stop talking and start doing. “A strong, balanced, successful CIO doesn’t heed pundits [or] pay attention to buzzwords,” Nash writes. “Strong CIOs don’t align technology and business. They work with their peers…. They figure out ways to make money for the business. They cut waste and plow those savings into projects that create value. Sometimes they create whole businesses where none before existed.” The world needs more strong CIOs—the sooner, the better.