CIOs are not becoming obsolete, says a recent Gartner report, they've just evolved into four different species.
The roles of CIOs are being redefined so that four different types now exist in the executive ranks, each with distinct roles and skills that are critical to e-businesses.
A study of the 1400 CIO members of Gartner's Executive Programs showed leading companies succeeding in e-business are making a transition to a cluster of CIO-related executive roles.
The emerging needs for e-business is changing the way in which executive managers perceive the CIO and the CIO's place in the boardroom. As a result, organisations are placing executives with significant IT responsibilities at higher levels of executive decision-making.
"The CIO is alive and well, but the role has mutated and is more influential than ever," said Dr Marianne Broadbent, worldwide research director for Gartner's Executive Programs.
"Today and tomorrow's CIO is clearly a different species than before. Gartner has found that in mid-sized to large enterprises, a new style of executive with business and technological responsibilities has emerged, and executives are evolving to handle different parts of IT and e-business strategies and implementations."
The research shows that four species of "the CIO genus" are emerging in leading enterprises.
The first type of CIO, still often referred to as CIO, may have responsibility across the organisation in a demand management role, which is a strategic role focusing on shaping top-level business needs and expectations across the enterprise. This CIO would not be responsible for delivering on implementation.
The second type of CIO, operating at the same level as the first species, is the chief technology officer or chief infrastructure officer.
This executive is responsible for ensuring that the technology-based services are delivered in a cost-effective way. Responsibilities often include exploiting supply opportunities.
The third type of CIO is the "technology opportunist", an executive responsibility that has grown from the demands of e-business.
This is an executive who is heavily involved in stimulating new business opportunities because of the executive's grasp of emerging technologies and the enterprise's business directions.
The fourth type, particularly in a multidivisional enterprise, is that of a CIO in charge of a significant business unit within an enterprise. Often, that executive focuses on combining supply and demand roles in a business unit, and is responsible for managing and shaping expectations as well as delivering specific business-unit-level services.
"Four 'e' words summarise the priorities of today's CIOs: energising, enabling, executing and exploiting," Dr Broadbent said.
"CIOs are really adding life to the strategic initiatives of enterprises by coupling insight on technology with an understanding of an enterprise's core business. CIOs are one of the few groups of executives who have a real 'helicopter' view of the enterprise, and their executive colleagues are now realising how valuable that is."
Gartner believes that executives must look carefully at how they can best apply their capabilities to the demands of these new roles. This is particularly key for executives working within an enterprise that decides to split the CIO role into multiple jobs, and find themselves faced with choosing which role they would like to adopt.