The State of CIO: Evolution of the CIO Mandate and Role

Lonely treeThese days I am presenting the analysis of the State of CIO in my blog. So far I have summarised insights from a successful CIO in my 50 Things to Know Becoming CIO post, followed by analysis of the priorities and focus for 2012 and beyond based on the Harvey Nash CIO Survey. In this post I will be analysing and summarising another influential industry survey from IBM. 

The 2011 Global CIO Study - Essential CIO is a comprehensive survey of 3000+ CIOs across Public and Private sector enterprises. More importantly it spans 70+ countries and 18 industries. So this is well rounded view of the CIO function in its true sense and any regional, industry biases and variations are essentially balanced by sheer volume of variety of insights in this influential piece of data collection and data analysis.

The key question which this survey is focusing on is, ‘How are technology leaders helping their organisations adapt to the accelerating change and complexity that mark today’s competitive and economic landscape?’ The headline finding of this survey is ‘CIOs increasingly help their public and private sector organisations cope with complexity by simplifying operations, business processes, products and services. To increase competitiveness, 83 percent of CIOs have visionary plans that include business intelligence and analytics, followed by mobility solutions (74 percent) and virtualisation (68 percent).’

The key takeaway for me from this insight is that the CIO and the IT function is no longer isolated or lonely in the evolving business and operational world. Rather the IT function and CIO role is stepping up to the challenge and evolving at similar or greater pace. The study classifies all the responses it has received in four distinct patterns called as ‘CIO Mandates’, namely Expand, Leverage, Transform and Pioneer. The editors of the report state, ‘These mandates were derived from iterative analysis, including state-of-the-art statistical and textual analysis of the thousands of CIO responses. It revealed typical response patterns associated with each mandate. Each pattern indicated a distinct approach to IT leadership derived from specific organisational needs.’

The Leverage Mandate is about demand from organisations for high-performance IT which needs CIOs to focus on managing essential IT activities and getting information to decision makers faster and more accurately. 52% of the focus of CIOs with this mandate is to provide fundamental services while 28% is to manage and boost the organisational process efficiency.

The Expand Mandate asks CIOs to focus on cross-enterprise growth while continuously tune business processes and internal collaboration to gain tighter integration. An overwhelming 98 percent of those CIOs said they would lead or support efforts to simplify internal key processes. A full 95 percent said they would lead or support efforts to drive better real-time decisions and take advantage of analytics.

The CIOs with Transform Mandate look beyond the boundaries of the enterprise to simplify business processes and generate real-time insights up and down the value chain. Organisations that operate with a Transform mandate expect IT, more than anything else, to be a provider of industry-wide solutions to support business. The survey reports that CIOs with this mandate are expected to spend more than 33% of their time and budget on this focus.

With a Pioneer Mandate, CIOs are seen as critical enablers of the organisation’s vision and typically spend less than one-quarter of their time or budget on delivering fundamental IT services or business process efficiency. This group of CIOs ranked product / service profitability analysis and product / service utilisation analysis as their top two priorities for turning data into usable intelligence.

The report concludes by stating that, ‘Whether an organisation requires an emphasis on delivery of essential IT services or challenges the CIO to pioneer new opportunities, CIOs need to innovate. With ongoing technological shifts, the seemingly endless onslaught of data and the increasingly frenetic pace of change, making incremental improvements to operations may no longer be sufficient.’ 

The message is loud and clear: the role of CIO is evolving. Innovative approaches to advance the business forward is IN. Efficiency improvements and ‘keep the lights on’ are expected as ‘business as usual’ and no longer enough to secure the seat at the Board. Modern CIO needs to be a true business leader who owns and manages to technology to deliver true business value and advance the business forward.

CIO Insights is part of IBM Executive Exchange.

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Image courtesy Evgeni Dinev /

This blog post appears in the ebook Management Skills in IT.

About the author
Amitabh is a senior enterprise architecture practitioner who specialises in business and technology strategy definition, governance, architecture as well as methods and tools. He is an active industry networker, blogger, speaker and contributor to the advancement of enterprise architecture discipline. Currently he is the Chief Technology Officer in Fujitsu Services Private Sector Division.

See all posts by Amitabh Apte
September 2017

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