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Commentary

The CIO Is Dead

Hey, it's not my pronouncement. It comes from Ian Campbell, CEO of Nucleus Research, who is quick to call it what it is: hyperbole, which is defined as exaggeration to make a point. But that doesn't make it not true -- at least to a certain extent.
Hey, it's not my pronouncement. It comes from Ian Campbell, CEO of Nucleus Research, who is quick to call it what it is: hyperbole, which is defined as exaggeration to make a point. But that doesn't make it not true -- at least to a certain extent."Hedging doesn't get you anywhere theses days," Campbell says, laughing, after I ask him to tell me how he truly feels about the CIO position after he tells me, "The CIO is dead."

When not doing his Friedrich Nietzsche impersonation, Campbell is the president and CEO of Nucleus Research, a market research and consulting firm that specializes in analyzing the return on investment of technology projects and purchases.

His main points about the CIO position are these:

>> More and more CIOs are reporting to the CFO these days. And while you can find plenty of CIOs who used to report to the CEO who now report to the CFO, you can't find any CIOs who used to report to CFO who now report to the CEO. "The job is being brought down, not brought up," he says.

>> Technology decisions, including purchasing decisions, are being taken out of the hands of CIOs and handled instead by line-of-business managers. That's because almost any business executive knows as much about IT as they need to know to succeed in their areas of business -- and much more than they did 10 years ago. That migration of technology responsibility is reflected in the shrinking IT budgets being given to CIOs, which no longer include business unit technology purchases that these days tend toward important applications like customer-relationship management (CRM) software. "The IT budget is less and less allocated for those items," he says.

>> The CIO position is moving in two different directions: infrastructure manager or technology visionary. "And neither warrants a C-level title," Campbell says. Ten years ago, technology was something that required a visionary to watch, understand, and match to the needs of the organization, but not any more. "Technology used to be a thing somebody else had to manage," he says. And the technology areas increasingly allocated to the CIO tend not to be the most important to the organization. "The person who keeps the e-mail running is not [at] a C-level job anymore," he says.

All this adds up to a position of diminishing responsibility and impact. "The CIO is in for a tough couple of years," Campbell predicts.

What do you think? Is the CIO position on the downswing or the upswing? Are C-level executives more tech savvy than ever before, obviating the need for a CIO? And is hyperbole a legitimate way to make a point?

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