Are CIOs at Risk?

The CIO Has Unique Challenges

The chief information officer faces a set of challenges that perhaps no other executive level position does. As Samuel Greengard explains, the CIO takes the brunt of any disruptive technology, figuring out how to either protect or embrace it for the good of the company. Furthermore, CIOs take the most scrutiny from other execs, leading to an immense amount of pressure and almost continuous self-justification. This might be one of the reasons that CIO tenure. But this is a trend that can certainly shift if the CIO is able to face the newest challenges with the right set of tools.

Collaboration Is Key

A big part of CIO survival is flexibility. As Greengard explains, collaboration and listening to the CEO are where CIOs can stand apart:

A 2013 CIO Survey conducted by executive search firm Harvey Nash USA found that the proportion of IT departments where 10 percent or more of IT spend is controlled outside the IT department increased from 23 percent in 2011 to about 40 percent in 2013. “There is a strong shift toward a more collaborative and multi-skilled CIO,” notes Bob Miano, president and CEO of Harvey Nash USA. Moreover, Harvey Nash reports that CEOs increasingly expect CIOs to prioritize projects that “make” money over “saving” money by a 62 percent to 38 percent margin.

To be sure, the job requirements for CIO are changing. “It's not only long-term technologists who hold these positions, it's increasingly people who have worked on the business or non-technology backgrounds that are assuming the role of CIO,” Benton explains. This trend points to a need for a broader understanding of IT, including the behavioral and cultural components of using technology. In addition, BYOD, app development, social media and other areas represent a new and critical frontier.

CIOs must meld new responsibilities and challenges with the standard expectations of the post—which of course include managing the unexpected.

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