The State of the CIO Is Just Fine, Thank You

The State of the CIO Is Just Fine, Thank You

Congratulations, CIOs. Our annual survey shows you’re doing great

So do you want the good news, the not-so-good news or the bad news first? Okay, I'll decide for you — let's kick off with the good news, which is plentiful. More of you are reporting to the CEO than in any previous year. Someone put cement bags on cost-cutting's ankles, and it continues to plummet downwards. Innovation is on the rise, and the really good news is that you and your IT department are participants.

Fifty-one percent of survey respondents said innovation was specifically part of their organization's core business strategy, while 56 percent of you said you had on your staff either an individual or team dedicated to R&D. Eight percent of CIOs indicated that innovation was a dominant part of their role.

You are engaging with the business like never before and leading process improvement. When asked how you spend your time, interacting with your company's CXOs and business executives now tops the list, replacing making strategic decisions. There is no better indicator of a CIO's status within an organization than the face-time he or she has with other senior executives.

And you best your Yank brethren in some critical areas. For example, the number of US CIOs reporting to CFOs continues to go up, which, of course, means the number reporting to the CEO is going down (some 10 percent since 2002). Salaries, too, are down, with the average American CIO making $US23,562 less than they did five years ago (adjusted for inflation). That said, US CIOs on average make more than you do, but then again they don't get to live in Australia and are stuck with Dubya.

Yank CIOs do tend to hang on to their jobs longer, but then again if you're reporting to the CFO what's the plus side of job longevity.

There's lots more, but I have limited space and need to move on to the not-so-good stuff, so go check out the results which start on page 30.

The not-so-good news locally is in how Australian CIOs divvy up among our designated archetypes — Operational Expert, Turnaround Artist and Innovation Agent. The percentage of CIOs in the Turnaround Artist category is the same (57 percent) here and in the US. However, while the US has a mere 1 percent of Operational Expert CIOs, we have 33 percent in this group. The US tags 36 percent of their survey respondents as Innovation Agents, while we came up with only 10 percent. Clearly we need to start developing and growing the next generation of IT leaders who are less operationally focused and better prepared to take on Business Strategist or Innovation Agent roles.

And the bad news? Well, our survey didn't yield any news I'd call bad. What I refer to as bad news is the kind that's "fit to print" in too many publications. It seems like every time a CIO moves on — and heaven forbid a handful of CIOs make moves over a short period of time — observers have to put their two cents in as to whether it heralds the demise of the CIO. Or stories appear that posit whether the CIO role is even a valid one.

But here's the skinny: Because they sit in seats of power, true CIOs can't — and shouldn't — fly below the executive team's radar. The fact is, MIS managers get the boot because the network fails or e-mail goes down. CIOs, on the other hand, get shown the door because there's a fundamental break between them and other CXOs. The person didn't work out. The role remains a strategic one.

So for all the analysts and editors who need to find portents in meaningless things, let me suggest: Sometimes the only meaning in the entrails is that it's all a dog's breakfast.

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