CIOs Uncensored: Are CIOs Disappearing? - InformationWeek
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CIOs Uncensored: Are CIOs Disappearing?

An informal and *very* unscientific search of the Web sites for a dozen global companies reveals that seven out of those 12 don't list their CIOs among their executive teams. Why, and what does it mean?

An informal and very unscientific search of the Web sites for a dozen global corporations -- household names all -- reveals that seven out of those 12 don't list their CIOs among executive teams. Why is this so, and what does it mean?

InformationWeek and this author take back seats to no one in our admiration for the business impact a great CIO can have on a company's profits, revenue, customer loyalty, security, and ability to innovate. With that in mind, I wanted to see how the public Web sites of a dozen companies from various industries describe the roles and responsibilities of their CIOs. I was curious to see how these companies talked about the impact of business technology, led by the CIO, in everything from product design to manufacturing to customer service and marketing. My guess was that most companies would aspire to something like this partial description on the FedEx site for what EVP and CIO Rob Carter does: "He is a member of the five-person Executive Committee, which plans and executes the corporation's strategic business activities. Carter is responsible for setting technology direction, as well as the corporation's key applications and technology infrastructure."

Problem is, my guess was as wrong as John Wayne in a tutu. Heck, not only were the management committees and/or executive committees mostly without CIO representation, but on seven of the sites I couldn't find any evidence that a CIO even existed!

Go to the sites for Coca-Cola, Walgreens, Google, Genentech, eBay, Goldman Sachs, and Yahoo and just try to find a listing for that company's CIO. Coca-Cola listed 15 execs, but no CIO; Google showcased 45 execs, but no CIO; Goldman Sachs, 10; eBay, 11; Walgreens, 16; Yahoo, 20; and Genentech, 7 -- and not a single CIO among them.

I'm splitting hairs a tiny bit with Genentech, because a separate "management" list with more than 50 managers on it included the name and title of Todd Pierce, VP of corporate information technology -- but, technically, no CIO.

Conversely, it was easy to find the CIO on the sites of General Electric, United Airlines, Eli Lilly, John Deere, and Nike.

Of my 12 randomly selected companies, only a few outlined what the CIO does. (BTW, did you know GE CIO Gary Reiner has held that position for more than 11 years?) And Coca-Cola made it tough because on one list the company kinda/sorta hinted at the whole IT thing with the inclusion of Danny L. Strickland on its list of 15 top execs -- Strickland's title is senior VP and chief innovation/research and development officer. His bio says that before joining Coca-Cola, he was at General Mills where his position was senior VP for innovation, technology, and quality. But I found another version of the list that describes Strickland as senior VP and chief innovation and technology officer, so I wasn't sure how to score that one. That second title -- chief innovation and technology officer -- is a very good one and points in the direction where this profession is headed, with more focus on innovation.

Maybe this is all coincidence, and I just happened to pick the only seven companies in the Fortune 1,000 who don't showcase their CIOs and their challenges and their strategic roles -- but I doubt it. Maybe those companies keep the CIO under wraps on their sites for fear that some headhunter will come trolling through their site and steal the prized executive away -- but I doubt that, too.

But whatever the actual, legitimate reason, I don't think it's exactly a ringing endorsement that many of these sites populate their top executive ranks with general counsels and heads of HR and top engineers and such, but don't find it necessary to include a CIO on the first string. Heck, I'm not even sure if some of these companies even have CIOs, let alone put them on the exec committees. So here's how it might look in a multiple-choice format:

Q: Seven out of 12 company Web sites do not list the company's CIO because:
  1. those companies don't have computers
  2. those companies don't have CIOs
  3. those companies have CIOs but don't consider them important enough to include in executive overviews
  4. the traditional CIO role is being deconstructed and those responsibilities are being spread around to others
  5. some other reason.

Now, I realize that company Web sites aren't intended to present perfect reflections of reality, and some of the seven secret-about-CIO sites might be attempting to fill that spot. Either way, it might not be a bad time for a little self-evaluation, and also some hard thinking about how you and your role and your team are perceived in the organization at large. Along those lines, my colleague Chris Murphy recently wrote about CIOs and reporting structures -- is the trend toward having them report to the CEO or the CFO?

What's the case at your company -- is the business-technology leadership role recognized? Is it being broken down and distributed among other business leaders? Is it a good place to be right now, with lots of career opportunities and room for learning, growing, and career advancement? Or is it a place to avoid? Let us know -- my colleague John Soat, the top columnist and blog dog at CIOs Uncensored, will pay handsomely for all thoughtful replies.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

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