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CIOs Have A Role To Play On Corporate Boards, Executives Say

The perception of CIOs is evolving from managers of back-office systems to executives with knowledge of business processes.
While very few CIOs sit on the boards of directors of the world's largest companies, 75% of global executives believe CIOs have a role to play on those boards, according to a new study released this week by executive search firm Korn/Ferry International.

The online survey of more than 2,000 executives, in a number of top-level positions from a variety of industries, found that 46% believe CIOs "absolutely" have a role to play on a company's board of directors, and 29% say they "somewhat" believe CIOs have a role to play on such boards. Only 3% say "not at all" when asked whether they believe CIOs have a role to play on the board.

"Right now, the pressure is on for companies to find board members who have a full complement of business experience," says Richard Spitz, global managing director of Korn/Ferry's Technology Market.

The role of CIOs has been evolving at many companies from a "back-office" administrative and service-provider job to that of "business partner" who can help a company become more competitive globally. But there's "still uncertainty of where IT will go at many companies," Spitz says. So, while a majority of executives believe CIOs can play a role on boards, "it's still uncertain whether that's a sign of a pending trend that will develop," he says.

Right now, the majority of company boards are comprised of CEOs, CFOs, and other "general executive" members, he says. CIOs make up a very small minority of board members across large companies, "probably equal to the distribution of executives in marketing and production" positions who have seats on company boards, Spitz says.

It's likely that more CIOs will be seriously considered for board membership as the perception of their role evolves from that of managers focused primarily on regulatory compliance, back-end operations like E-mail and document storage, and administration, to that of executives who understand business processes and the competitive environment and who provide companies with a competitive advantage, Spitz says.

Despite the chasm between the perceived role CIOs play and their actual contribution to a business, most executives seem to value the improvements technology has brought to their own companies. In the Korn/Ferry online survey, a whopping 96% of executives say they believe technology has improved efficiency at their companies. Specifically, 69% say technology has "significantly" improved efficiency, and 27% say it has "somewhat" improved efficiency. Only 3% say technology has neither improved nor impeded efficiency, and 1% say it has impeded efficiency.

Executives also seem receptive to the idea of working for technology companies. When asked whether executives would consider working for a technology company in their next job, 34% say they're "highly likely" to consider that, and 33% say they're "likely" to consider that. Twenty-four percent are "neutral" about the idea, and only 7% say they're unlikely to consider that option.

When it comes to tech spending, 51% of the executives say they thought technology spending in the current economy was beginning to improve. Twenty-eight percent think it appears to be relatively stable, and 5% think current tech spending "is as good as it will get." At the extremes, 9% say they think tech spending is in "the midst of a major upswing," while 7% think "it may be poised for another downturn."

As for the technology industry being fully recovered from the dot-com recession, 62% of the executives believe this "somewhat," 9% believe it "fully," 13% are "neutral" on the question, 14% don't believe it "much," and 2% don't believe it "at all."