Chief Information Officers (CIOs) risk being sidelined if they fail to change C-suite approach

| November 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

As the business world evolves, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) can, and must, refresh the outdated perspectives that other executives still hold about their role in order to succeed, according to Ernst & Young’s DNA of the CIO report released today. The report, based on a survey of over 300 senior IT professionals globally, also draws on in-depth interviews with a further 25 CIOs and 40 respondents from across the rest of the C-suite, to capture business views about the CIO role today.  Damon Greber, Director of Information Technology Risk and Assurances Services in the Channel Islands comments that “Whilst there are not many Channel Island organisations that have a local CIO in place, all organisations rely on technology to run their business and have someone who is responsible for Information Technology.  The perspectives and views set out in the report are therefore directly relevant to Channel Island organisations and an additional challenge for local organisations is whether IT is fairly represented on the board or not.”

The central role that technology has played in every industry and sector of business over the last two decades emphasizes just how big an opportunity CIOs have already missed. CEOs are in clear need of “co-drivers” who combine technology expertise with business skills; however, too few CIOs are currently regarded as true members of the executive management team. While they have technological expertise, they are not perceived to have the right level of business skill – limiting their potential for change.

Maureen Osborne, Global CIO of Ernst & Young comments, “The clear message from many CIOs, is that the status quo will need to change. In order to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving technological landscape, CIOs will need to break out of their comfort zones within the data centre. Those who don’t, will run the risk of being further relegated down the corporate hierarchy, or sidelined altogether.”

Securing a place in the C-suite

If CIOs are truly going to deliver on the potential remit of their role, and the potential of IT, they will need to work harder to secure their position at the top table. Less than half (48%) of the C-suite executives think the standing of CIOs has improved in recent years on a range of issues, from product innovation through to helping deliver on the operational agility of the company. While 60% of CIOs think they add strong value to fact-based decision-making when setting corporate strategy, just 35% of their C-suite peers agree, resulting in just 43% of CIOs reporting that they are deeply involved in strategic decision-making.

This low level of involvement is reflected in nearly 4 in 10 (38%) respondents reporting a lack of support from the executive management team as a major issue, particularly within larger companies with revenues of over US$1b (46%). Most leaders aim to keep any discussions with the CIO centred on IT budgets, ignoring the chance to engage in a wider discussion about the value of technology. CIOs acknowledge that it will be difficult to change such perceptions of being a purely cost control function, but doing so will be a prerequisite for recasting the role of the CIO, and IT, within the wider business in the future.

More than IT budgets

Previously, IT leaders have not done enough to reach out to the rest of the business to develop long-lasting relationships that can support their wider change efforts. As befits IT’s long-running history as a cost control function, CIOs hold the closest relationship with the CFO, but CIOs recognise that by expanding discussions to encompass the CEO and other leaders, CIOs can move the conversation onto matters about IT value and its role within the business, rather than getting tied up in budgets alone.

Dave Ryerkerk, Ernst & Young Global IT Advisory Leader concludes “Future CIOs will need to be able to show proactively how IT can be used as a source of innovation within the business, rather than merely a support function. Naturally, a part of this will be securing the chance to support a major business project of some kind, which can, in turn, make a specific impact on how the rest of the business operates.  The value of this is clear: once business leaders start to recognise an IT leader as someone who can transform the way they operate their business, perceptions can quickly start to shift. This will be especially clear if the resultant changes in the business operating model impacts top line revenue growth.”

To find out more information and download the report, visit

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Category: Finance & Business

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