CIOs typecast as techies

13 Oct 2005

Continuing the debate on defining the role of chief information officer (CIO), a survey suggests that they are still typecast as technology experts despite being more closely aligned with the business than before.

A report by Forrester Research, The CIO Profile, has found that business users still perceive the CIO as an IT expert, a view that CIOs have helped to foster by concentrating mainly on technology issues.

In its survey of US business decision makers, Forrester showed that the role of CIO is becoming more strategically important with 40pc of respondents saying that the CIO reports directly to the company CEO, up from 29pc last year. This trend is especially marked in the finance and insurance sector.

In one of the survey’s most significant statistics, almost two thirds of business executives (65pc) said they perceive their CIOs primarily as technology professionals. The CIO’s workload bears this out: they spend just 38pc of their time dealing with business issues and 78pc said less than half their time was taken up with general business.

What this all means, Forrester concluded, is that although technology and business are structurally close at an executive level, the IT department is not effective at communicating its priorities and new technology adoption to the rest of the business. “Daily operations constantly remind the CEO and other execs of IT’s importance to the business, increasing the CEO’s need for unfiltered information about IT and spurring the growth in the number of CIOs reporting directly to their CEOs. But this won’t fix IT’s communication problems,” said Forrester. “In addition to shofting their reporting structure, CIOs need to embrace the concepts, terminology and processes of marketing: creating marketing plans, executing campaigns and boosting IT’s brand equity within the firm.”

By Gordon Smith