Global CIO: IBM's Massive Study Says Future Belongs To High-Growth CIOs - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
Commentary
9/9/2009
10:42 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Global CIO: IBM's Massive Study Says Future Belongs To High-Growth CIOs

An unprecedented study of CIO outlooks, objectives, and behaviors will rapidly and dramatically raise expectations for CIO performance in driving growth and business value.

An unprecedented study of 2,598 CIOs in 78 countries across 19 industries reveals that CIOs in high-growth organizations are profoundly more engaged in helping set strategy, driving tangible innovation, connecting directly with customers, and optimizing business processes. The results of the study could have far-reaching implications because the sheer size and breadth of the effort go beyond any previous investigation of CIO behavior and the results break out sharp and sometimes jarring contrasts among CIOs focused on growth and innovation, and those whose primary objective is to manage technology operations.

While some might say that these outcomes are obvious or widely known, I would argue the opposite: for too long, too many CIOs have clung to the vital but limited role of head-down IT manager, giving only lip-service to the more-challenging transformational roles many CIOs have undertaken. Particularly in today's difficult global economic climate, these tech-centric CIOs are given cover by the conventional wisdom (or, more accurately, outdated stereotype) that says chief information officers need to sit back and wait for direction from The Business, that their "customers" are their internal colleagues, and that their primary responsibility is to reactively play an endless game of catch-up by chasing after The Business in a fruitless attempt to "align" with it after the fact.

This study, conceived and executed by IBM's Institute for Business Value, is going to blow away a lot of those outdated stereotypes while resetting permanently and profoundly the expectations for what a CIO should be responsible and accountable for here in late 2009. By offering almost 20 gap analyses of how high-growth CIOs versus low-growth CIOs set priorities, interact with colleagues, engage with customers, and more, the IBM study breaks new ground in giving CEOs, CIOs, and other C-level executives the baselines and perspectives by which to measure their own behaviors, approaches, and metrics.

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And having read the initial report closely and discussed the findings with the IBM executive who led the project, I believe that when those CEOs and CIOs and other C-level executives look at this study, every single one will be immediately convinced that they must increase, quickly and dramatically, the level of engagement the CIO and the entire IT organization has with business issues and outcomes versus technology operations.

I'll further bet that none of them—not a single one—will say, "Y'know, based on these results, we should reduce the level of business engagement our CIO has because, well, this IT stuff doesn't really make a difference anywhere, does it?"

Because I think those gap analyses are among the most compelling elements of the entire study and will have an immediate and profound impact on many CIOs, I'm going to focus this column on highlighting a number of those to demonstrate the significant distinctions between what the IBM team defined as high-growth CIOs and low-growth CIOs. To see the whole study, you can click here.

Also, here's how IBM defines high-growth and low-growth CIOs in the study: "To simplify the terminology in this report, we will primarily refer to CIOs who work in organizations with high PBT [profit before tax] growth as "High-growth CIOs" and to those working in organizations with low PBT as "Low-growth CIOs." Presenting our findings in terms of these categories offers CIOs a more structured approach to identify where they want to increase their focus and how to do it."

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