"What role did the CIO play?" I asked. She looked surprised by the question. "I'm not sure they had a CIO," she said, adding that her client's CTO was actually "part of the problem" the company had to resolve. It was the usual story of too much technical focus and too little business acumen.
But the more disturbing news was how rarely this businesswoman had encountered a CIO among the CEO's inner circle. "CIOs are just not seen in the business," she said apologetically, as I must have looked a bit stricken. After all, I see IT leaders everywhere (like that spooky little kid in the movie The Sixth Sense).
Still, it's hard to argue that business visibility isn't a lingering problem for IT executives. The way a company views its IT chief can color everything from IT/business alignment to employee culture. And since fostering greater visibility for midmarket IT leaders is one of the driving forces for this magazine, I'm happy to point out some stories in this issue that speak directly to that theme.
Foremost among them is our inaugural "CIO Decisions Midmarket Salary and Careers Survey", which highlights a rise in compensation, growing executive influence for IT and improved job security. Some midsized companies do see their IT leaders as critical to their success. As analyst Heather Liddell of Forrester Research notes, the business view of IT is expanding beyond mere cost center and into the realm of innovation enabler. "This shift of priority undoubtedly elevates a CIO's strategic importance," she contends.
Our survey of 457 IT executives (nearly half of them CIOs and VPs of IT) underscores the importance of the actual title -- for not only business visibility but also overall compensation. Nearly 50% of CIO respondents are bringing home $150,000 or more in salary, compared with 26% of vice presidents of IT and 4% of IT directors. And 67% of survey participants have advanced degrees or technical certifications. The CIO is becoming "more of a global business driver and less of an information officer," says CIO Mike Easley of Home Quality Management in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. "The role is transforming every year."
That transformation urge shows up in our cover story on the white-hot topic of business intelligence ("Diving Into Dashboards"). When you read how companies like $200-million Eastern Mountain Sports are taking dashboards beyond snazzy interfaces and into the strategic use of business metrics, you'll see another place where IT visibility is growing in the right direction. Another kind of visibility pops up in our story on how CIOs can prevent outbreaks of "rogue" IT projects ("Rebels With a High-Tech Cause"). Midmarket organizations are especially vulnerable to under-the-radar IT projects because of their entrepreneurial histories. "Anytime a CIO encounters rogue IT," says one CIO , "it should always come as a wake-up call."
Consider this issue another bell ringing on your behalf, a wake-up call for IT visibility. How does it look to you?
Anne McCrory is editorial director of CIO Decisions and the CIO Decisions conference. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was first published in June 2006