CEOs feel the CIO heat: survey

Escalating company dependency on IT has led to CEOs jealously guarding the boardroom against rising CIOs and their influence on strategic decision making, despite indications that business and IT are slowly converging according to a new survey this week.

While the 400-plus CEOs surveyed for the worldwide Compass Management survey recognised the critical role of CIOs in organisational strategy, they did not want them in the boardroom or making executive decisions.

The survey included CEOs from some of the world's largest corporations, according to Asia-Pacific managing director of Compass Management Consulting, Rawdon Simon, who said findings show the CIO is "stuck between a rock and a hard place".

Simon said despite CEO recognition of the significance of IT in an organisation there is a real lack of clarity in defining the role of the CIO in the annual survey which is entitled The World IT Strategy Compass Census 2000.

"The CIO is expected to support executive strategy but not sit in on decisions or have a place in the boardroom," he said.

For the first time, Simon said, the survey reflected the realisation that the new world economy has definitely come into play and the contribution of IT to business.

Despite the impact of IT, he said CEOs are still battling with the role of the CIO and their level of authority in the enterprise.

Key responsibilities for the CIO listed in the survey include meeting the demands of end users while still meeting economic targets.

Simon said often these factors have to be achieved with "limited funding" particularly in the age of e-commerce.

"E-business has made it tough for CIOs because companies expect them to maintain a sound structure while still implementing rapid change which can be hard with new technology," he said.

"CEOs see e-commerce as a CIO responsibility and see IT as a significant tool in the transformation to a new economy but don't want them to participate in driving business in the boardroom.

"It is also interesting to note that CEOs are confident about the use of technology and associated business implications but are not happy making IT decisions; they hand this to the CIO."

CEOs surveyed defined their expectations of CIOs stating their key tasks should be: to provide systems to support business strategy; keep users and managers satisfied; run an economical IT operation; build a sound IT infrastructure; and introduce relevant new technologies.

But CEOs are less convinced that CIO responsibilities should include transforming the business through IT or contributing to the business.

"Of potential concern is the finding that 56 per cent of CEOs expect their CIOs to lead their organisations' e-commerce initiatives," Simon said.

"This suggests that many CEOs might be allowing technology to drive a strategic process; on the other hand perhaps CEOs are trusting their CIOs to effectively address business issues. It's something that needs to be further explored."

The survey shows CEOs are specifically focusing on e-business models and the use of IT to address strategic issues such as customer relationship management, improving the supply chain, and innovation through knowledge management.

Simon said CEOs reviewed 16 business areas and selected the three that IT affects most in terms of delivering competitive advantage.

Building customer relationships received the most votes, with 38 per cent of CEOs ranking it in the top three.

Tied for second were rapid exploitation of new technology and improving supply chain management. Next on the list were access to new customers and knowledge management.

The survey was sent to CEOs in 11 countries.

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