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11/21/2006
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Just How Effective Are You?

CIOs often rate themselves as being more effective than their peers, underlings, and bosses perceive them as being, Optimize magazine study says

Assessing a CIO's value to the business is a tough exercise. A tech chief’s effectiveness goes beyond standard metrics like ROI. It means comparing the exec’s self-evaluations with the perceptions of his or her executive peers, direct reports, and line-of-business counterparts. InformationWeek‘s sister publication, Optimize, did just that, with a survey of more than 700 technology and business pros about the effectiveness of the IT chief. And the results: Top tech execs didn’t ace this test.

The results weren’t all bad, however. CIOs scored well across the board in areas such as supporting company-wide business strategy and delivering business value to the company. At a time when demands are great on CIOs to demonstrate the business value of a traditionally cost-inducing department, it’s inspiring to see IT execs aligned with those skills.

Business Minded, bar chartBut in aggregate, the research shows that CIOs have a higher perception of their effectiveness than do the execs to whom they report, the staffers who look to them for guidance, and the internal business customers who count on them to produce. It’s this misalignment of perceptions that might hamstring an otherwise competent CIO. Total effectiveness is the synthesis of perceptions from all four constituencies of CIOs, CXOs, IT staffers, and LOB managers.

In the survey of 188 CIOs and VPs of IT, 288 IT managers and staffers, 131 CXOs, and 72 line-of-business managers, each constituency was asked to rate CIOs in three primary areas: business skills, technology know-how, and interpersonal skills. Respondents also were asked to rate all these things based on their perception of CIOs as a whole, as well as the characteristics of their own company’s CIO.

Of the CIO respondents, 64% consider themselves effective at creating a customer-centric environment, while only 46% of IT managers and staffers deem them so. Similarly, 72% of the CIOs believe they’re effective at understanding process as well as technology, but just 47% of IT managers and staffers agree.


IN THE FISHBOWL
Few businesspeople would dispute that the CIO is the most scrutinized C-level position in the organization. Their high profile puts them in a fishbowl, opening them up to overevaluation, even criticism, about their every move. That’s because every business decision, every purchase, and every customer interaction in a company is facilitated by business technology. No other unit sits at such a nexus.

But there’s an upside, too: If CIOs are effective, their accomplishments stand out. It’s just that with so many people eyeing your every move, there’s little room for error.

CIOs are more aligned with CXOs and their expectations than they are with their own IT staff or line-of-business management, the survey found. The biggest gap in the scores was between CIOs’ expectations of themselves and the expectations of IT staff and LOB managers. That doesn’t surprise Gary Light, CTO at Capital Region Health Care. "CIOs have been more confident building relationships with the executive suite than with the rest of the organization," Light says. "Being engaged at the LOB level is still relatively new."

"A lot of that could be due to delivery," says Mike O’Dell, CIO at Pacific Coast Companies, a federation of building-products suppliers. "If a line of business is forced to change to different business processes by CXOs or CIOs, the decision is made at a higher level, but [the LOBs] bear the brunt of the effort for delivering."

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