For years, CIOs have been told to be businesspeople as well as technologists. Our first survey on the role of the CIO finds that they no longer need reminding. Although most come from IT backgrounds, they have the mentality and often the experience of businesspeople. That's not to say that all IT executives are strategists. Strategy is critical for CIOs in large companies, but CIOs in smaller companies and IT executives below the CIO level are still primarily problem solvers. We also found a CIO skills gap: Many admit to needing improvement in the most important skills CIOs need to succeed, including business understanding, leadership ability and communications skills.

Among the survey's surprises: IT execs feel technology savvy is only a minimal requirement for the job, and recruiting and retaining IT talent—until recently a dominant issue—rarely registers as one of the top priorities. The same is true for maximizing revenues or improving customer service. In addition, being a strategic thinker is considered a critical attribute by IT execs at about 40% of large companies, but by just 21% at smaller firms.

We also found that the average IT executive has many years of experience in fields other than IT, and many have substantial international experience. And contrary to the techie stereotypes, more appear to be extroverts, not introverts. Technology still takes up more than half of their time, but not much more; IT executives devote a substantial portion of their working lives to business issues.

This article was originally published on 04-15-2002
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