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CIOs: in the eye of a business and technology storm

A recent survey with IDG Research Services revealed that CIOs can be the best drivers for business innovation within their organizations. The results we saw from this survey suggested that getting the business and IT together may take something as fundamental as rethinking, and retitling, the CIO position itself.

A recent survey with IDG Research Services revealed that CIOs can be the best drivers for business innovation within their organizations. The results we saw from this survey suggested that getting the business and IT together may take something as fundamental as rethinking, and retitling, the CIO position itself.

CIOs, perhaps more than any other corporate executive, face a constantly changing landscape of opportunities, threats and job demands. As IT and business interact in an ever- accelerating virtuous cycle, each decision also carries with it unique business benefits and threats. For example, the proliferation of smartphones, public and private cloud deployments and an increasingly mobile workforce.

With these factors in mind, business and IT collaboration should be 'default' and not an 'exception'. The ideal model for IT project initiation would be a collaborative process in which IT and business representatives jointly identify new projects and opportunities for innovation.

With these factors in mind, business and IT collaboration should be 'default' and not an 'exception'. The ideal model for IT project initiation would be a collaborative process in which IT and business representatives jointly identify new projects and opportunities for innovation.

The fact that, 20-plus years on, the CIO position is still often more tactical than strategic raises some tough questions. Among the most fundamental is whether the CIO position itself is in need of a makeover. Most of the CXO-level positions--CEO, CFO and COO--carry with them commonly understood responsibilities and powers. The CIO, position, by comparison, has been something of a cipher at this executive level, with roles and responsibilities that vary considerably across organizations and with tactical demands that often overshadow more-strategic functions.

Given the imperative to establish IT executives as full strategic partners, companies can't afford to keep "discovering" the need to build stronger bonds between the IT department and business units. Therefore, in relation to whether a change in the traditional CIO title can help drive business innovation, a few technological advances can definitely help IT and time-consuming tactical activities. A transfer of some internal IT operations to third-party cloud providers, for example, can lessen deployment and maintenance burdens, and the automation of manual IT processes can permit more time for strategic explorations and planning.

To fully take advantage of these and other opportunities, however, CIOs--and the organizations for which they work--must completely commit to delivering on a vision of IT/business integration that is now close to 30 years old. There needs to be institutional recognition at every level of an organization of the strategic value of IT. For their part, CIOs and other top IT executives must finally become both business leaders and technology leaders, since there is now barely any difference between the two.

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