IT still viewed as ‘support function’ in most firms

18 Mar 2008

It appears the role of the chief information officer (CIO) is still not viewed as central to the business strategy of most firms as a staggering 86pc of chief financial officers (CFOs) believe IT serves a support rather than a main function.

Research carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit entitled ‘The evolving relationship between the CIO and the board’, questioned 185 senior executives from a range of different industries to gauge the attitude and changing role of the CIO in the context of the modern business strategy.

It was found that under half (47pc) of CIOs actually had the opportunity to present IT issues in board discussions, with 45pc of organisations leaving it to the CEO to do the talking when it came to IT matters and a further fifth of businesses leaving it to the CFO.

While the CIO still appears to have much less clout in the boardroom than the CFO or CEO, it appears the view of IT is slowly changing from that of a mere cost-saving function with 42pc of survey respondents now seeing it as a strategic business function.

Furthermore, nearly a third of survey participants said they felt the IT department in an organisation was chiefly responsible for network and system security, while interestingly 31pc saw it as a means of generating revenue.

The view from the CFOs questioned differed greatly however: none felt the IT department served as a means of revenue generation, with 71pc seeing the main role of IT as providing security for the organisation.

The survey threw up some interesting facts on regulation: On the one hand, most of those questioned felt corporate regulation would toughen up over the next few years and that IT played an important role in managing this regulation.

On the other hand, 23pc of the 185 senior executives questioned said they would not be investing any more in risk management. In addition, 30pc said they wouldn’t be making a change in the amount they invest in compliance.

Greg Day, security analyst at McAfee said: “It is worrying that in a day when governance, risk and compliance are now crucial for business success, only a minority of CIOs are fully participating at board level.

“IT chiefs need to capitalise fast on the progress they have made over the past few years to ensure the full business case for investment in IT is understood by corporate decision-makers.”

By Marie Boran