Surveys Underscore CIO Frustrations

Chief information officers (CIOs) are increasingly expected to participate in strategic business planning, yet CIOs often feel isolated from other top executives and frustrated by how slowly their departments are being viewed as integral to the corporation, according to two new studies.

A Korn/Ferry International survey of information technology (IT) directors at 340 companies in the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany found CIOs are concerned with a lack of planning or focus, the drain on resources due to spending on year 2000 fixes and what they perceive as a lack of opportunity to advance in their companies.

In a separate study, Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) found in its 11th annual survey of IT executives, that 72 percent of the 594 respondents rated aligning IT and corporate goals as their top concern. That issue has been rated first among CIOs in the CSC survey for four consecutive years.

The annual CSC poll also found that 66 percent of CIOs queried feel that technology users in their companies would rate the effectiveness of information systems as average or acceptable, rather than good to excellent. A year ago, 55 percent said their information systems would be seen as average or adequate rather than good to excellent.

The studies seem to suggest that while companies increasingly are emphasizing the importance of IT departments in overall corporate strategies, CIOs continue to feel locked in the role of technical planner rather than corporate strategist.

The result is that many CIOs are locked in "professional limbo," trapped between the past and the evolving future of their jobs, according to a written statement outlining the report from Korn/Ferry, a global executive search firm.

U.S. CIOs are most doubtful of their chances of being eventually promoted to chief executive officer, with 29 percent saying that they have a shot at that job someday, according to the Korn/Ferry poll. Among U.K. respondents, 34 percent see a chance for such a promotion, as do 41 percent in Germany and 46 percent in France.

More U.S. CIOs also complained about spending on year 2000 problems, with 36 percent saying that those issues are taking resources away from important projects. However, only 11 percent of U.K. CIOs, 10 percent in France and 6 percent in Germany have the same concerns, Korn/Ferry found.

Those figures might reflect more on how far along various countries are in terms of dealing with year 2000 problems, which are occurring because older software programs were written with two-digit date fields that read, for example, the "00" in 2000 as "1900" and therefore make incorrect calculations.

A lack of planning or focus is more of an issue for CIOs in Germany, France and the U.K. with 51 percent, 35 percent and 29 percent, respectively, listing that as their biggest obstacle in the Korn/Ferry survey. Conversely, 18 percent of U.S. CIOs cited that issue as an impediment to success. Of greater concern for U.S. CIOs is a lack of specific skills with 36 percent listing that as a top problem.

Among U.K. respondents, 28 percent said a lack of specific skills is their chief obstacle, followed by 23 percent in Germany and just 12 percent of the French CIOs questioned.

Whatever the issues they have with overall corporate attitudes and their own opinions about their role, CIOs in the survey are well paid. The total compensation packages, including base salary, bonus and deferred compensation, for U.S. CIOs fell between US$143,000 and $213,000, with 30 percent earning an overall salary of $214,420 to $284,000.

Korn/Ferry can be reached at http://www.kornferry.com/. CSC, in El Segundo, California, can be reached at +1-310-615-0311 or at http://www.csc.com/.

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