Canadian CIOs say they’re treated as C-suite peers

Canadian CIOs may be more likely to be treated like a peer among senior management but they must work just as hard as other chief information officers around the world to manage IT demands, according to a global study released by Deloitte this week.

The consulting firm’s IT-Business Balance Survey 2011: Finding Common Ground, suggests that CIOs are becoming more successful at being heard by the C-suite and included in the development of business strategy. But personality traits, the ability to measure performance in a business context and the degree to which collaboration happens between IT and other departments is critical to the future of all CIOs, the report said.

“The influence of the CIO should trickle down through the organization and pervade other levels,” according to the report. “‘Bonding at the top’” only works if it finds echoes below. This starts within the IT steering committee and in all management meetings.”

Although the sample size of 25 Canadian CIO responses was small compared to the overall rate of more than 2,000 globally, the results indicated that Canadian IT executives were more tightly linked to business strategy, said Sébastien Blais, partner with the Technology Strategy & Architecture consulting practice of Deloitte Inc.

“In terms of Canadian results, we see much more of the CIO as peer, whereas globally they’re more likely reporting to the COO and CFO,” he said. “I don’t think it is a matter of (organizational) size. It’s a reflection of what we saw as a little bit more of a maturity in terms of IT management practices.”

In some cases the CIO’s position within the organization can be influenced by the industry within which they are employed. According to the survey CIOs were most likely a peer in three out of five financial services organizations, the highest level of peer connection, whereas real estate and manufacturing CIOs were less likely to have a seat at the table.

Blais said Canadian CIOs also reported more satisfaction with their outsourcing agreements. This could be because they update their service level agreements more often than their global counterparts.

“We don’t consider (outsourcing) as a silver bullet,” he said. “It’s not a bunch of wishful strategies we put in place just to reduce our costs.”

One area of concern the report highlighted was “demand management” – in other words, how well CIOs can keep up with all the requests from the business that are thrown at them every day.  

“Articulated with a clear costing and chargeback mechanism, demand management is a key ‘interfacing’ process,” the report said. “Interestingly, good IT demand management seems to open business doors to IT: in companies where IT demand management is highly mature, IT also plays a larger part in the definition of the business strategy.”

Blais suggested that demand management begins with having clear accountability within the IT department for who can handle different areas of the business. For example, there should be a knowledgeable point person who can deal with the finance department, and another who can field marketing-related requests.

Despite ongoing challenges, Blais added that the survey indicated positive overall trends for the CIO community.

“This report tells you that although you may feel you’re part of a battlefield, we see things coming a long way,” he said. “The next 10 years the focus should be on driving value, business results. Keep up the good work but continue.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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