Survey Links Building Business Relationships, Bigger Bucks

Susan Hall

My colleague Ann All last fall quoted executive recruiter Tim Cook from a piece saying that IT has become "less about running infrastructure and data systems well, and more about IT procurement, vendor management, business-process change and information security."


Wrote Ann:

This kind of shift may lead companies to start seeing the CIO role as more strategic than it has been in the past, which would certainly be a positive development. A side effect, that may or may not be so positive for some CIOs: The days of a role dedicated solely to technology strategy appear to be waning. This could make it more difficult to create and maintain a cohesive technology strategy. (Conversely, maybe a CIO responsible for at least one other major business function will enjoy more credibility with his/her colleagues, which could make it easier to win support for and compliance with a holistic technology strategy.)

And after a panel discussion at an ITBE-sponsored Midmarket CIO Forum on the benefits of befriending the CFO, our Rob Enderle wrote:

If you can find ways to make the CFO's job easier, that person is more likely to help you when you need it and less likely to hang your budget out to dry. If your goals align, the CFO is more likely to see the advantage of spending on IT and will focus cuts on other areas. Given how hard it is for the CFO to get real numbers and how critical IT is to generating those numbers, an alliance can pay strong dividends, including cutting stress from both jobs.

As it turns out though, befriending the bosses and other business units can pay off in multiple ways. According to the CIO/IT Strategy Media Group IT salary and career survey, CIOs with the best relationships within the organization overall made the most money. They had strong support from their higher-ups and their IT teams were well-regarded by other business units.


The responses came from 875 senior and midlevel IT executives. They were categorized by earning power: Highest earners are those who make more than $210,000 a year; midlevel earners make $90,000 to $210,000; low earners take home less than $90,000.


The survey also found that the highest earners were twice as likely to make those relationships a priority. When asked how they spent their time, "breaking down communications barriers between IT and the business" got top billing among the highest earners (22 percent), compared with just 10 percent among midlevel earners and 5 percent among low earners.


Meanwhile, "managing projects" was ranked higher among midlevel (34 percent) and low earners (33 percent) than the highest earners (18 percent).


Yet despite the time the highest earners spend building favor within the organization, the same high regard doesn't seem to extend to their own staffs. Of the execs who said they were "satisfied or "extremely satisfied" with their IT teams, the percentage fell by salary level, from 51 percent for low earners, 49 percent at the mid level and just 40 percent among the highest earners. And high earners were much more likely to be "extremely dissatisfied" (6 percent) with their teams than were midlevel earners (1 percent) or low earners (2 percent).


I've written before that people skills can set executive job candidates apart. Computerworld quoted Jerry Luftman, professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., saying these skills are sought all the way down the line:

They're looking for management skills, industry-specific skills, communications skills, marketing skills, presentation skills and negotiation skills. These are all just as important [as technical skills] as companies look to hire people.

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