Debate soars: is a CIO worth $1m?

Revelations this week that Qantas CIO Fiona Balfour is earning a yearly salary of $1.2 million ignited debate about the value of a CIO and what they are really worth.

While some industry pundits said that remuneration packages for prominent CIOs, which go as high as $1.5 million, were grossly over-inflated, others were a little more forgiving.

According to the 2004 Qantas annual report, Balfour's total salary package is $1,203,543, which lists her in the top six of the airline's highest paid executives.

Recruitment agent Ambit IT national spokesperson Peter Butterss said CIOs belonging to organizations that are household names should be rewarded.

Although there are only a few Australian CIOs earning more than $1 million, Butterss said a successful CIO is worth every cent.

"The role of a CIO is not a nine-to-five job; if you compare two organizations in a competitive market, one with highly productive IT and the other where systems were not as organized then you are talking a financial difference of between 10 to 20 percent annually," he said.

"This represents an enormous gap in the marketplace.

"Any listed organization that has the governance of reporting and projects in the public light creates a stressful role and it comes with the territory; in reality if any organization is paying someone more than $250,000 annually then they own you because you are working to deliver on business requirements, most likely 12 hours a day, six days a week, plus there is the travel and study."

Ambition recently surveyed 150 CIOs nationwide in regard to their particular business outlook and current landscape and found salaries for CIOs, CTOs and CKOs start at around $150,000 plus a strong bonus component typically of between 40 to 60 percent of the base.

Jane Bianchini, Ambition IT director, said everything a CIO does is measured including the ROI the business gets on a CIO's salary.

"To earn in the upper quartile (a starting base of $300,000), CIOs need a strong mixture of business and commercial acumen, customer focus and technology skills that are an inch wide rather than a mile deep," Bianchini said.

"Typically they will hold an MBA or related business postgraduate qualifications."

While there are many paths to a higher salary, a generally more IT-aware executive executive may reduce the impact of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) approach.

"I have seen some CIOs employ scare tactics to increase their salaries, relying on security as the biggest weapon.

"However, CEOs and CFOs are increasingly becoming IT savvy and these ploys don't always pay off," Bianchini said.

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