Changing CIO role has IT impacts

IT World Canada’s 2008 State of the CIO survey presented some eye-opening findings about where chief information officers are spending the bulk of their time — findings that should have repercussions all the way down to IT and network managers.

Not too surprisingly, it appears CIOs are beginning to lean more in the direction of looking at how IT fits into the overall strategy of their organizations, and evangelizing technology’s potential to other senior managers and upper-level executives. When asked what their most important job activities were, 72 per cent included “Interacting with CXOs and business executives” in their top three list.

What is more surprising is just how effectively the task of working with the actual technologies they are espousing has dropped. For the same question, “Managing IT crisis” registered a mere five per cent, while “Budgeting/learning about IT/security planning” garnered only six per cent.

The responses to another question also revealed that CIOs are thinking less about the technology and more about skills that were in the past more associated with a CEO, CFO or vice-president. When asked to name the top three personal skills they deemed to be most important to their success, 75 per cent included “Ability to communicate” on their list. Another 68 per cent identified “Strategic thinking and planning”.

Clearly, CIOs are not getting their hands too dirty in the tech trenches.


Read more about business issues for CIOs in IT World Canada’s Leadership Knowledge Centre

Instead, that task is increasingly falling on the shoulders of their IT manager charges. While the CIO spends more time in the boardroom strategizing with his fellow execs, the IT manager is increasingly being called upon to make the hard decisions around which specific technologies to purchase and when, in order to fulfill the mandate being set by those in the executive suite.

For some managers, these tasks have always been part of their mandate. For others, being the primary voice of recommendation when it comes to technology or service purchases is something new. Being the main source of information about what is and what isn’t appropriate for their corporation is a role that can bring with it new levels of stress and anxiety. No longer a single voice amongst many, a large number of IT and network leaders are being asked to become the technology authority for their organizations.

For those looking to climb the corporate ranks and who are champing at the bit for more influence in the way their outfit’s technology is purchased, deployed and managed, this trend will be a welcome one. The opportunity to shine is clearly evident.

For others who are quite happy where they are, working away with the technology before them and not overly anxious to hobnob with the CXO suite, the development might not be so welcome.

No matter which side of this fence an IT/network manager resides on, all should start thinking about this development and what it might mean for their career. By no means is the shift in CIO focus happening overnight, but it appears it is happening nonetheless. In turn, the role of those IT staff members just below them on the corporate hierarchy is changing as well. Whether this is a positive or negative development is up to each individual to decide for themselves.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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