State of the CIO 2014: The Great Schism

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Despite the talk from Gartner and others that the CMO and marketing group are poised to take dollars away from IT, our survey finds that CIOs expect the portion of tech-investment money under IT's control will remain pretty much the same in the next three years: 65 percent now and 66 percent in 2017. Maybe CIOs are sticking their heads in the sand on this issue. Or maybe they're interpreting the facts differently: For Adduci at Boston Scientific, the worried talk about how entities other than IT are funding technology projects misses the point. For example, 61 percent of enterprise technology projects are not financed by IT, according to a recent survey of 1,200 business executives conducted by IDC. But that's as it should be, Adduci says. If a project has a clear business value, funding and sponsorship should come from the non-IT business groups that benefit, he says. We've moved beyond IT for IT's sake, after all.

CIOs may lose control of some IT spending. But the smart ones accumulate capital in the form of credibility and influence. It's in the ability to build relationships, however, that the divide between CIOs is most stark.

The activities that game-changer CIOs plan for elevating IT's relationship with peers this year differ from those of cost-center CIOs. Game-changers, for example, more often plan to deepen the IT bench. Doing so, of course, makes a stronger IT group. But it also makes delegation easier, freeing up time for strategic pursuits. And it instills confidence in business peers that the IT team can handle demands, Carmody says.

"Business can see we can solve their problems quicker. That's a huge plus."

In enhancing a personal work relationship with C-level peers, cost-center CIOs may be taking some ineffective steps. For example, they report planning to provide advice to others more often than planning to seek advice, which probably won't win friends, Heim says. CIOs do best when they listen first and ask lots of questions to understand an issue. "You have two ears and one mouth for a reason," he says.

Another example: Cost-center CIOs don't plan to--or perhaps can't--join C-level peers in customer meetings as often as strategic CIOs. Attending industry events together, socializing outside of work and celebrating wins outside of work are also more popular relationship-building activities for game-changers than for cost-center CIOs.

What's Best for You?

IT leaders who question whether the role is rewarding may want to think about why they're in the job. If optimizing the maintenance of legacy systems is satisfying, there's certainly less of that now for a CIO. But creativity--the ability to create something--is on the rise as a trait for CIOs. "I find," says Roy of CUNA Mutual, "that being able to use all the technology available to us today to do things that weren't possible before is very rewarding."

Certainly, no CIO is all one kind or another. The best CIOs, however, are nimble. Heim, for example, is helping develop Whirlpool's Internet-of-Things strategy, contemplating wild, business-changing ideas for dishwashers, refrigerators, washers and dryers that communicate with consumers through sensors. But he's also devising a technical plan for phasing out Windows XP--an important endeavor, although decidedly less glamorous. "Realistically, you have to spend time on all those activities," he says. "Your best tools are stamina and natural curiosity."

The Sidelined CIO

A substantial minority of CIOs say they feel sidelined. These same CIOs struggle with innovation and see an increase in shadow IT.

What you imagine for your professional future influences how you perform today. For some CIOs, things look dark: 28 percent say the CIO role is being "sidelined" and 52 percent say the CIO's future will be one focused on managing contractors, cloud and other IT service providers, according to our 13th annual State of the CIO survey.

Although they're in the minority, that sidelined 28 percent are worth some attention. Their behaviors and attitudes may indicate serious, but perhaps correctable, organizational problems. For example, those CIOs who say the IT group is perceived by colleagues as a cost center are much more likely to feel sidelined. They're probably under intense pressure to cut IT costs from old-school CEOs and CFOs. That's no fun. Nor is it good for the future of the company as business goes digital. Some CIOs are ready. Others clearly are not. Many are stuck somewhere in between, struggling with internal politics and old-style thinking, as well as with external economic and competitive forces they haven't seen before.

In higher numbers than the rest of our respondents, sidelined CIOs say they're asked to be innovative but aren't sure how to do that (52 percent versus 37 percent). Innovation may not be easy, but CIOs have an important role to play.

CIOs who feel sidelined control less of the IT budget than average among our sample of 722 IT leaders, and they're much more likely to be watching shadow IT increase. Overall, they spend more time on cost control, security and negotiating with vendors, and less time leading change and driving business innovation.

How can a sidelined CIO break out? There's no question that the CIO role is more challenging than ever, in part because anyone who shops at Best Buy suddenly thinks he can set corporate IT strategy, says Rich Adduci, CIO of Boston Scientific. Instant experts don't bother him, however, because he's willing to listen--to a point. "Let people have a voice, but don't lose your own," he advises.

Mentoring at all levels of the IT organization may help, says Rick Roy, CIO of CUNA Mutual. " We've got to increase the pipeline of tech graduates from school and then get deliberate about rotating technology leaders out of IT for part of their careers," he says. "We're creating leaders of the future."

Kim Nash is managing editor of CIO Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @knash99. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

Read more about cio role in CIO's CIO Role Drilldown.

This story, "State of the CIO 2014: The Great Schism" was originally published by CIO.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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