Setting a Strategic Course

By Allan Alter Print this article Print

CIOs say their role will shift sharply away from operational oversight and technical details so they can concentrate on setting strategy and innovation. But is that what the boss wants?

What will you be doing in 2010? according to our latest annual study on the CIO's role, you will be busy creating strategy and exploring new ways to use information and emerging technologies. CIOs may still come primarily from IT's professional ranks, but just 8 percent of the 291 executives we surveyed believe technological acumen is a key skill for success. That's because far fewer believe their main responsibilities in three years will include shepherding IT projects, ensuring data quality, defining IT architecture or even day-to-day managing. And CIOs will be paid well for the privilege of focusing on the Big Picture: If current trends hold up, their compensation will receive a big boost.

See also: Are CIOs Losing Their Luster?

Yet for all the talk about strategy, just a third of CIOs say their role is creating business strategy; the rest say it's executing strategy. What's more, the IT organization's performance has become a more important consideration when CIOs are evaluated. Does this mean CEOs don't want C-level tech executives to focus on strategy? Not at all; half report that contributing to developing strategy has become more important at evaluation time, too. But our data does serve notice that the boss isn't letting the CIO off the hook; CIOs are still accountable for the technical side of the job. The lesson here: Strategy has little value without execution. CIOs won't be allowed to engineer strategy unless the trains arrive on time.

In this story:
The CIO's Role: Findings
Slideshow: IT Outsourcing
Research Methodology

This article was originally published on 2007-04-17
Executive Editor

Allan Alter has been a specialist on information technology management, strategy and leadership for many years. Most recently, he was editor-in-chief and the director of new content development for the MIT Sloan Management Review. He has been a columnist and department editor at Computerworld, where he won three awards from the American Society of Business Press Editors. Previously he was a special projects editor, senior editor and senior writer for CIO magazine. Earlier, Alter was an associate editor for Mass High Tech. He has edited two books: The Squandered Computer: Evaluating the Business Alignment of Business Technologies and Redesigning the Firm.

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