The Death of the CIO--Again


Is it me, or does the debate over the death of the CIO never end?

I haven't been covering IT management since the "CIO" first came on the scene, but it seems that since that time, the CIOs' demise has been predicted over and over again.

Now comes this entry from Patrick Gray, founder of the consulting firm Prevoyance Group.

The big takeaway:

"To stay relevant, the CIO role must evolve beyond the operational, shared service mentality. Droning on about uptime and upgrades is not going to cut it, and purely operational CIOs will rapidly be ushered out of the C-suite."

Gray continues to say IT will probably be split into two disparate operations: one to keep the lights on, and the other an "internal consultant," a hybrid of business and technology smarts that works across the organization to solve problems.


"In this world, the CIO becomes a mix of process officer, information broker and skunk works-type researcher. His or her "customers" are those that write the checks for the products and services the company buys, not internal business units, and problems are tackled jointly with line of business counterparts."

It's an interesting take, and worth reading. The only downside is, we've heard a lot of this before. By "we," I mean pretty much anyone tuned into the IT leadership world.

The late, legendary process guru Michael Hammer told us a lot of this in a 2007 interview. Nick Carr documented a good chunk of the debate in this post around the same time.

I spoke with Gray about much of this back in late 2007, when his book, Breakthrough IT, had just been released.

I don't think anyone at this point argues that CIOs and their organizations need to be more strategic and business-savvy. Gray is right in that if CIOs run their IT shops like happy utilities, they'll overstay their welcome at the executive table. But in the past few years I've seen a drastic shift in the thinking and actions of many top-flight CIOs. They have become more business-savvy, and they're becoming more strategic, though there's definitely room for improvement across the board.

Our 2009 CIO Role study reveals a lot of sharp thinking about where the IT leader's function is heading. One big stat on the idea of the CIO disappearing: only 15.7 percent of respondents said the CIO role won't exist in 10 years. A low number, but still a bit troubling that that many believe it's going away.

Guy Currier's analysis is a good read, and click on the "Printer-Friendly" icon to see the full data.

Columbia University's Art Langer also has an interesting take on all this, as well. It seems a number of big companies have opted not to replace their former CIOs with a C-level operative. Instead, they've given the reigns to the former CIO's deputy, but haven't given them the title. My read is that this is a belt-tightening move in these tough times--not necessarily an indication that businesses are truly eliminating the position.

Regardless, as we've said before, the CIO role is in a state of crisis.

What do you think will become of the CIO role?


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