McKinsey CIOs

IT leaders come and go, but when they go, there’s considerable hope for the future, based on research result from consulting firm McKinsey.

In a report published last month, McKinsey showed a range of attitudes and perceptions not merely from CIOs and IT executives, but non-IT executives as well. On the plus side, both groups seemed to think that having a strong CIO presence in the boardroom was important. On the other hand, there was also a sense that such strong presences can and should be replaced if needed:

The CIO’s impact on functional performance is underscored further by the fact that roughly one-fifth of respondents (23 percent of IT respondents and 18 percent of all executives) believe a change at the top of IT management is one of the most significant initiatives that could fix IT’s shortcomings.

This probably doesn’t mean we’re going to see a slew of CIOs losing their jobs, but it does reflect the increased challenges they experience in pursuing business transformation of some kind. Take this data point, for example:

The results also indicate fading confidence in IT’s ability to support key business activities, such as driving growth. In the 2012 survey on business and tech­nology, 57 percent of executives said IT facilitated their companies’ ability to enter new markets. Now only 35 percent say IT facilitates market entry, and 41 percent report no effect.

If you want a sense of how CIOs could move the needle in this area, it might start from within. Probably the biggest surprise for me in this report was the differences between where IT leaders saw themselves as effective and non-IT execs. For example, 55 percent of CIOs who consider themselves as “very or extremely involved in business strategy” said they were most effective in managing IT infrastructure. Forty-nine percent of business leaders, on the other hand, said CIOs were most effective at, “working with business leaders to improve existing systems or functions when asked.”

Managing IT infrastructure sounds much more keeping-the-lights-on to me than anything innovative, while doing things “when asked” makes IT sound much like the order-takers they were supposed to have transitioned away from years ago. In other words, while the potential value of technology might rank higher than ever before in many organizations, the way IT leadership is positioned has longer to go than we might want to admit.

The McKinsey research is worth a look in its entirety. For more focused, Canadian results, there’s still time to fill out the CanadianCIO Census.



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