CIOs Must Deliver Business Value-or Face Obsolescence

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Seven Major Projects CIOs Should Consider During the Next Three Years

It's tough being a CIO. For years we've heard about the typically short tenures of CIOs and the limited opportunities for CIOs to move to another position in the C-suite. Some folks like to joke that CIO stands for "career is over." (I guess that's what you call gallows humor.)

Angelica Mari wrote a blog post for ComputerWeekly.com in which she says several IT executives she interviewed for an article on IT executive search told her they hoped to move into another, operational role in their organizations. She mentions several British CIOs who have done so recently. She wonders if CIOs are a "declining species," writing:

As IT-enabled change and efficiency becomes an oxymoron for the younger generations and the current cohort of CIOs moves to other functions of the "business", services that used to be executed by internal departments are now carried out by third-parties.

A Computerworld article cites data from Janco Associates, the Society for Information Management (SIM) and anecdotal evidence to show CIO tenure is usually about five years. Two sources for the article, Janco CEO Victor Janulaitis and SIM member Jerry Luftman, have differing views on the recession's impact on CIO tenure. Janulaitis says the recession has led more organizations to seek a change in IT leadership, while Luftman says it is keeping older CIOs on the job longer in hopes their finances will improve before they retire.


When I wrote about CIO tenure last spring, I shared Forrester Research analyst Sharyn Leaver's opinion that CIOs were less likely to take risks in a recessionary environment, and thus less likely to be fired for risks that didn't pan out.


The Computerworld article isn't all negative. It also cites a source from executive search firm Cook Associates, who says companies are taking longer to hire CIOs because they better understand the strategic nature of the role. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on a CIO's skill set. Cook Associates SVP Seth Harris says:

CEOs have higher expectations of CIOs in terms of their knowledge of the business and being able to solve business problems through the use of technology.

That certainly meshes with a recent Constellation Research report that found companies will expect CIOs to deliver more business value.


According to a CIO.com story about the research, the report suggests CIOs will need to master four personas in order to be successful:

  • Chief infrastructure officer. According to Constellation CEO Ray Wang, this technology-centric persona, which is focused on cutting costs and managing legacy systems, is becoming a core competency. It's table stakes, however, with CIOs not winning a lot of points with other executives for performing these tasks.
  • Chief integration officer. This persona is expected to bring together various business processes, data, systems, legacy systems and newer cloud-based approaches. As IT Business Edge blogger Lorane Lawson wrote last summer, some experts believe integration will become a far larger focus for IT, thanks to the growth of cloud computing and the shift to managing services rather than building them.
  • Chief intelligence officer. This persona involves improving business user access to relevant information and is growing in importance, says Wang.
  • Chief innovation officer. This persona, focused on delivering innovation at a low cost, will be the toughest for many CIOs to adopt, says Wang, because it "requires a good understanding of the business strategy as well as keeping up to date with a large amount of disruptive technology."


In looking at Wang's advice for CIOs, the continuing importance of the infrastructure persona becomes clear. Wang says CIOs must quickly assess which disruptive technologies can benefit their organizations and help create new business models to leverage them. With flat IT budgets, however, they'll have to optimize existing investments (the bailiwick of the chief infrastructure persona) to fund these new initiatives.