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Survey: CIOs 'out of the loop'

CIOs are often seen as "glorified IT directors", looking after the day-to-day running of IT systems, instead of being used to align IT with business aims.
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Written by Tom Espiner on
Chief information officers are "out of the loop", according to a survey carried out by London-based Deloitte and the Cranfield School of Management.

Despite being in existence for over a decade, the role of CIO is often ill-defined, according to the 40 participants in the survey. Respondents included CIOs, senior managers, analysts, consultants and academics.

"The role of the CIO seems to be a source of divided opinion and considerable confusion," states the Realizing value from a CIO report. "For many companies, the role and issues surrounding its effective execution appear to be widely misunderstood."

CIOs are often seen as "glorified IT directors", looking after the day-to-day running of IT systems, instead of being used to align IT with business aims. Many companies without CIOs question the need to have one at all, while the companies with CIOs have "greater clarity" on whether they need a CIO or not, but often have "unsuitable performance measures and persistent communication and alignment issues".

"Many CIOs still have their performance measured on the basis of traditional IT metrics, such as uptime, project delivery and variance from budget," said the report's authors. "Only a small minority of those CIOs interviewed were measured in a manner that reflects the strategic nature of the role, and both its information and technology components."

However, with the increasing use of technology to drive new business, firms may find they need to have a CIO to remain competitive, states the report. If so, businesses should try to have a clear idea, before they engage a CIO, of how the holder of the role could direct IT strategy within the company.

Once a CIO is in their role, the nature of their responsibilities is likely to be transitory, the study found. Depending on how IT is viewed and used in the business, the role could start with the CIO as an "evangelist", selling the idea that information can be used to add business value. The role could then shift to that of an "innovator" CIO, who proposes new products and services, and finally to a "facilitator" CIO, who expands the business use of technology across each department of the firm.

Having reached this point, "everything should function without further intervention", states the report, adding that, consequently, the CIO role "may cease to exist". However, the report found that CIOs may then be suited to another executive-level management role "where information is a critical component".

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