by Chris Potts

Live Research: The CIO Role is Reaching its Destiny

Nov 28, 20083 mins
IT Leadership

Nearly a third of CIOs have reached the ultimate destiny of their role, recognised by the Board as a leader of investments in business change.  At least, that is, in one remarkable country.

One of the things I truly value about my work is that I get to visit some remarkable places and work with such inspiring people.   Last week I had the honour of addressing the annual IT Awards ceremony in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, hosted by the country’s IT community “IT One”.    I shared the platform with Jean-Louis Schiltz, Minister for Communications and effectively the country’s CIO, and Gartner VP and Distinguished Analyst Michael Gerrard.

Luxembourg is a remarkable place indeed.  It is a country of 1,000 square miles (about 2,600 square kilometres), of which about 86% is farmland and woodland.  It sits right at the crossroads between Germanic and Romance cultures, and therefore has both historic and strategic importance. The resident population is just under 500,000 of which 43% are foreign nationals.

It is the world’s second largest investment fund center (after the USA), and is the premier European center for reassurance and private banking.  Luxembourg is also a magnet for media, communications and internet-based companies.  Skype is based there, together with broadcasting giants RTL Group and SES Astra.  According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Luxembourg has the second highest GDPs per head of population in the world. 

At the awards ceremony each speaker was invited, at the end of our speech, to ask a question of the audience of about 450 CIOs and IT professionals .  Every member of the audience each had an electronic pad to select one of three answers .

My speech was about the four generations of Corporate Strategy for IT, and the corresponding generations of the CIO role.  I therefore asked the audience about their Board’s understanding of the CIO role’s primary focus.  Here are the three answers, which equate to CIO generations two, three and four, and the percentage response in each case:

A. Cost and performance of IT services (42%)

B. The value people create from exploiting IT (28%)

C. Return on investments in business change – whether these involve IT or not (30%)

In the remarkable place that is Luxembourg, based on this evidence, nearly a third of Boards already recognise that the CIO role is primarily about investing in business change.  For almost another third, their role is well on the way to its destiny – being primarily about how people create value from IT rather than IT itself.  The remaining 42% of Boards are still focusing the CIO on the cost and performance of IT services, but the journey is laid out before them and it’s for the CIO to lead everyone along it.