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How isolated is the CIO in the executive suite?

It’s been a question asked for years because there is a sense — with some empirical evidence to back it up — that many C-suite executives don’t believe a chief information officer belongs on the top floor.

According to a column on Forbes.com, a recent IBM survey of 4,100 C-suite execs from around the world, that attitude is changing.

Writer Peter High, president of a business and IT advisory firm, notes that among the take-aways is that CIOs are now viewed as the third most strategic member of  five on the executive team — behind the CFO and CMO – other than the chief executive.

On the other hand, of all the C-suite personnel, the CIO is seen as the most specialized in the group. Perhaps that’s expected — it’s easy to assume the CIO deals only with the data centre — but it also suggests the position isn’t seen as closely tied to helping shape an organization’s business strategy. Perhaps, as High says, CIOs need to have staff under them as so-called business information officers, whose sole job is to work closely with business units. One by-product would be to burnish IT’s reputation in the enterprise.

Still, when asked to rate which trio of the five executives would most likely outperform, the nod went to the CEO-CMO-CIO. “The truly savvy CIOs add value from their expertise in technology, their ability to draw connections from across the enterprise, and in delivering value to both internally and externally facing functions,” says High. “Again, it is not the average CIO that is delivering this total package, but an increasing number of them are.”

What this report suggests is an opportunity for CIOs to be bigger value contributors in the future. In some ways that’s obvious — despite cloud computing IT is only going to become bigger in enterprises. SaaS and IaaS providers can’t give organizations everything they need. IT will need to be an advisor if for no other reason than security, let alone data integration.

The importance of CIOs is only going to grow.

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