by Michael Friedenberg

A Call to Arms

May 13, 20082 mins

What's up with the CIO role?

Something confounding is going on within the CIO community. Pat Lawicki, CIO at PG&E, senses it. Tom Cullen, CIO of Peet’s Coffee, sees the trends. Walt Thinfen, CIO at Visioneer, and Robin Evitts, CIO of Clorox, also sense that something is afoot.

Overall the CIO community has done a wonderful job over the past three to five years in regaining its credibility. Most organizations now understand the value that technology brings to the business, and most CIOs have earned their seat at the table with their CXO peers. Hopefully, operational efficiency is consistent and stable enough that CIOs can focus on the transformative and strategic elements of their business.

But despite all that has been achieved, I wonder if the CIO role is being taken for granted.

Our “State of the CIO 2008” research shows that the percentage of CIOs reporting to CEOs (41 percent) versus those reporting to CFOs (23 percent) has remained flat over the past few years. SIM recently released a study indicating that a higher percentage of CIOs are reporting to CFOs versus last year. Whatever research you look at, given that CIOs are adding more business value and becoming more invested in the customer, doesn’t it seem odd that there isn’t a massive shift of CIOs reporting to CEOs?

Maybe you’ve done too good of a job. Maybe, by effectively delivering real results, you’ve created the impression among CEOs, CFOs and COOs that technology implementation is “easy,” so they now question the value of the CIO role. Or, maybe, as technology becomes even more central to all aspects of the business, other CXOs are beginning to feel a bit threatened by the new person sitting to their left or right.

It seems to me that CIOs are about to be at a crossroads of defending their turf. The question is, will they fall back and retreat into their technology comfort zone, or will they forge ahead and make sure that their voice and value proposition are seen and heard? Maybe I’m misinterpreting the signals, but I don’t think so. Something’s going on. And for the sake of business performance, I truly hope CIOs step up to this next new challenge. If you think I’m off track, please drop me a note and let me know!