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2008: The Year Only the Strong IT Leaders Survive

2008: The Year Only the Strong IT Leaders Survive

More job opportunities exist for CIOs today than ever before, but more competition from business executives for those jobs and rigorous selection processes are making it harder to land them.

Fact: CIOs have achieved an unprecedented level of validity and stability in their enterprises. It's evidenced in their reporting relationships, compensation and tenures. According to CIO's 2008 State of the CIO research, more CIOs (41 percent) report to the CEO than ever; their salaries are on the rise; and they average four years and five months in their roles.

CIOs must prove their mettle as strategic business partners or they'll be relegated to the back office for the rest of their lives

The acceptance of the CIO and the recognition of his strategic importance in the boardroom have created challenges and opportunities for IT leaders. Expectations are higher. Responsibilities are broader and more complex. But in the midst of those complications, CIOs hold great potential to concretely and positively impact their organizations. In doing so, they increase their chances for moving into executive-level positions outside of IT.

In 2008, we'll continue to see CIOs move into business operations, but we'll also see business executives competing with technology executives for the CIO role, according to consultants and executive recruiters who work closely with CIOs. Jobs will be available for IT leaders, but they'll be harder to get. Only the strong CIOs will survive in 2008.

Prediction: Operational CIOs will be stripped of their C-level title.

Patrick Gray, president of IT consultancy Prevoyance Group and author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value Through Technology, says 2008 will mark a turning point for functional CIOs (those focused on IT operations and cost-cutting). He says CIOs will have to prove their mettle as strategic business partners or they'll be relegated to the back office for the rest of their lives.

"A CIO who is purely operational, technical and focused on cost-cutting may not be in the C-suite anymore as companies look to rationalize the number of C-level titles in their organizations," he says. "If you wait for someone in the business to summon you to implement a system or fix something, that's not a strategic role. It doesn't deserve a C-level title and makes it attractive to cut."

Prediction: CEOs will continue to expect their CIOs to contribute to their companies' growth.

When the U.S. economy began gaining steam around 2005, CIOs such as the Bank of New York's Kurt Woetzel were called to focus on growth and innovation. That charter will continue in 2008, according to Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research for Gartner Executive Programs. He says IT leaders will play a bigger role "in attracting and retaining customers, developing new information-intensive products and generally supporting the growth of the company as opposed to being focused on efficiencies."

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