The return of the CIO: Why the tech chief is back in favour with the CEO

Despite the rise of roles like the Chief Digital Officer almost half of all CIOs now find themselves directly reporting to the CEO - a return to "one of the highest levels it has every been", according to analysts.
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

To be one of the major players in any organisation you need to have the ear of the CEO, which is as true for the Chief Information Officer as it is for anyone else in the executive suite. And now it seems CIOs are increasingly acquiring that all-important access.

According to the latest report from analyst Gartner, Flipping to Digital Leadership: The 2015 CIO Agenda, despite the rise of roles such as the chief digital officer, 41 percent of CIOs are now reporting directly to the CEO.

This is a return to one of the highest levels it has ever been and is a direct result of what Gartner described as the "digital narrative" gaining prominence in the boardroom and with the executive committee.

Even stronger evidence of opportunity for CIOs, Gartner says, is that the survey reveals that CEOs expect CIOs to lead the digital charge during this critical transition period.

Again, according to the survey, 89 percent of CIOs agree that in addition to the "considerable opportunities afforded by digitalisation", the digital world is bringing with it very different and higher levels of risk — 69 percent of the CIOs surveyed said that the discipline of risk management "is not keeping up".

CIOs should review their enterprise and IT risk to ensure that risk management is, "adapting quickly enough to a digital world".

The big problem that the survey highlighted is one that will be familiar to most, or perhaps all, IT managers. As in last year's CIO survey, the report says, IT budgets are "not growing exuberantly". The average IT budget will grow "by just one percent from 2014 to 2015" it says and the CIOs themselves estimate that 79 percent of IT spending will be "inside" the IT budget.

While that figure is up only slightly, according to Gartner, "much digital innovation can and will be funded outside the planned IT spending".

According to Gartner vice-president Dave Aron, what is happening, "isn't just a high-tech story" but is a "transformation affecting all types of companies and agencies". This "transformation" represent both opportunity and challenge for the CIO, Aron said, and digitalisation is "not only a way to gain a competitive edge", but also "provides a powerful ability to flip disadvantages into advantages".

The worldwide survey included responses from 2,810 CIOs in 84 countries. You can see Gartner's Aron discussing the report here.

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