The Bain & Co. "Management Tools and Trends 2005" survey asks some rather pointed questions of IT and business managers regarding the relationship between these two groups. There are some surprising results, according to an article by Ed Cone in CIO Insight. For example, 60% said that IT spending was completely aligned with business objectives. I think that number would be considerably lower if the question had been about outcomes rather than spending. Over and over in the survey, it was clear that business managers thought IT was important, but many didn't think their IT department was up to the task. The question in my mind is "If you don't have an IT department that can deliver, whose fault is that?" The subtitle for my blog, Technometria, is "Organizations Get the IT They Deserve" and this story seems to bear that out.
This cuts both ways. Sometimes the IT department isn't up to the task and other times they haven't been given the resources necessary to meet management's objectives. I've seen cases where replacing the CIO, had dramatic effects on the ability of IT to deliver. In one case the person being replaced wasn't up to the task, in the other the management team had simply lost confidence in an otherwise good CIO. In any event, the first step is to admit there's a problem and second step is going through the hard work of making the replacement.
On the other hand, if your company's been through CIO after CIO and nothing seems to change, consider that it might not be a leadership problem so much as the context within which the CIO is forced to work. Management may say they "believe in IT" but not really understand enough about it to create a business climate and funding model that allows it to work. The CIO's talking, but the message isn't getting through because the CEO is distrustful of anything IT says. In that situation, maybe it's time for the board to find another CEO.