CIOs suffering in poorly-defined roles

01 Dec 2008 View Comments
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CIOs are under fire

Enterprise IT professionals are suffering in their roles because their employers have an ill-defined view of the role and its scope, according to a new report from Cranfield School of Management (CMS) and consultants Deloitte.

The report found that the CIO role was suffering because many firms could not see how they contributed to overall business needs and strategies.

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Professor Chris Edwards from the Cranfield School of Management, said that tensions could arise between the CIO and the rest of the firm when this disconnection occured.

"The role of the CIO is transitory; it has a clear beginning, middle and end, " he said.

"Our research has identified five states of information and technology leadership, only three of which will require a CIO. It is critical that the organisation identifies and deploys the ‘appropriate’ CIO type for their current need. Frustration and confusion occur in situations where an ‘inappropriate’ CIO type is deployed.”

The Cranfield study said that although the role of the CIO was long-established, IT was still very much viewed as a back-office function. This, it said, leads to key strategic decisions being made without IT's involvement. CIOs are most effective in roles that allowed them to contribute in a strategic manner.

“The information age may be upon us, but the value of information has yet to be fully exploited by British companies. Many companies are not using their information assets to power innovation, strategy and growth. The CIO should be playing a central role in business, ensuring information underpins business strategy,” said David Tansley, a partner at Deloitte.

Cranfield spoke to many CIOs who said they felt that they could also be to blame for the confusion around the role.

"I’ve seen CIOs transformed from being an aggressive, positive bunch to being extremely timid – within just a decade or so," said Toby Redshaw, CIO at Aviva.

"CIOs have been absolutely hammered by businesses, because IT has so often disappointed. And CIOs have to take part of the blame – not only for poor execution but also for poor management of expectations."

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