Conclusion 03

Conclusion 03: Roles and Tasks

The priorities of a CIO are a mix of everything from high-level strategy setting to simply watching costs. But CIOs who report to the CEO differ from other IT executives in two significant ways: Their corporate role is more centered on business issues, yet they are far less likely to focus on aligning IT with the business. It may be that the reporting relationship has helped to create, or is a sign of, a better aligned IT function.

IT executives say their role has changed from last year. Sixty-seven percent say they are becoming more focused on business needs, 57% on creating strategy, and probably due to tough economic times, 66% on budgets and cost-cutting. The additional focus on business needs is especially true for CIOs who don't report to CEOs, where the 67% figure jumps to 77%.

Technology has just a slight edge over business when it comes to how IT execs spend their time. On average, they devote about 57% of their work hours on the former, and 44% on the latter.

IT execs feel strategy and alignment are their raison d'etre. Primary roles include determining technology strategy (65%), proactively aligning IT with the needs of the business (55%) and leveraging technology for business advantage (49%). Least important roles include overseeing outsourcers (2%), overseeing major technology vendors (2%) and responding to the needs of business units (18%), though it's not clear with this last if IT execs perceive such response as fighting fires or as partnering with their business constituents.

Our respondents admit, however, that their bosses want them to focus more on other nonstrategic concerns. Determining technology strategy and leveraging technology for business advantage don't rate as high but still top the list, at 56% and 42%, respectively. But operational concerns score higher: Managing costs increases 15 percentage points to 35%, and managing systems rises to 32%. For CIOs reporting to the CEO, advising top executives on using technology jumps to second place, at 46%.

Alignment plays a bigger role for CIOs who don't report to the CEO than those who do. Forty percent of CIOs reporting elsewhere say their boss expects them to proactively align IT with the business, compared with only 25% of those with a CEO as their direct supervisors. This is confirmed by the response to a separate question on current priorities, which also found that aligning IT is a top priority for 52% of CIOs who don't report to CEO, versus just 33% of those who do.

This article was originally published on 04-15-2002
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