CIOs adjust to their new reality

The CIO role is integral to today's increasingly digital businesses, but transformational IT executives aren't necessarily shedding their functional responsibilities — get used to it.

state of the cio primary
Gabriela Zurda

As technology grabs the lead role in modern business, all eyes are on the CIO's ability to lead initiatives that radically transform how companies sell products, reach customers and drive opportunities for new revenue streams. At the same time, the digital era's wholesale dependence on technology means there's little room for the slightest hiccup in operations -- resulting in another mandate on the CIO's agenda.

If you're hoping for a break, you'd better strap in for a lengthy ride, because neither dynamic shows any sign of abating, according to's 2017 State of the CIO survey, which found the bimodal role clearly established as the next chapter in the CIO journey. The balancing act that CIOs started to take on last year has shifted into overdrive, putting pressure on IT leaders to master this game of double duty or risk being marginalized.

Seventy-two percent of respondents to the State of the CIO survey said they were struggling to strike the right balance between business innovation and operational excellence. An even greater number, 87 percent, said they found the CIO role to be more challenging than ever before, in part because juggling transformational and functional responsibilities has become a permanent job requirement, not a short-term challenge.

"This current model of keeping one eye on the strategic and the other on keeping the lights on is a matter of course now," says Andrew Ho, vice president of technology for the Global Strategy Group, a public affairs agency and political consulting firm. "Making sure both these paths are intertwined is a balancing game for any CIO or senior IT role."


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