What your CEO really wants from IT

There’s a schism between what CIOs think they should be doing versus what their CEO thinks they should be doing, according to survey data from Info-Tech. But it’s time to stop making assumptions and get on the same page to build a data-driven IT strategy.


Are CIOs and CEOs on the same page these days?

It’s a timely question to ask right now. Calls to align IT with business goals have intensified over the past few years. Gartner Research kicked off the year by positing that today’s CIOs have only one viable option for retooling the relationship with their CEO: “Partner or perish.”

In other words, IT bosses can’t wait for business to ask them to dance; they’ve got to jump right in there and boogie.

To gauge just how well this CIO/CEO tango is going, Info-Tech Research decided to ask both sides. It surveyed more than 250 CEOs and CIOs, 29,000 business unit managers and 2,500 IT team leaders and workers. And Info-Tech’s James Alexander recently summed up the major findings for an audience of enterprise IT execs at the CIO Peer Forum in Toronto.

“Are we aligned with our CEOs today? The answer is a vehement no,” said Alexander, a senior vice-president at Info-Tech.

Not exactly the result anyone was hoping for. Here’s a breakdown of key survey numbers:

  • 49 per cent of CIOs/CEOs are not aligned when it comes to evaluating IT’s current performance
  • 67 per cent of CIOs/CEOs are not clear on the target role for IT

So for CIOs, there’s a schism between “what you think you should be doing versus what your CEO thinks you should be doing,” said Alexander.

  • 43 per cent of CIOs overestimate the size of their next budget

Alexander again sized up the situation: “Almost half of CIOs think they’re going to get more money than they really will get, so they make plans to buy stuff they’re never going to be able to buy.”

  • 38 per cent of CIOs aim higher than their CEO really wants them to
  • 66 per cent of CEOs don’t want or expect IT to transform the business
  • in five different categories, CIOs feel business isn’t giving them the direction, funding, project guidance, employee participation or C-suite leadership that IT requires
  • 74 per cent of CEOs want CIOs to do a better job of reporting metrics on IT’s business value and stakeholder satisfaction

Alexander blames the whole disconnect on those pesky things called assumptions. CIOs and CEOs are making way too many incorrect assumptions about what the other dance partner really wants, needs and does.

“You can’t, in this day and age, be assumptive or just use past experiences. You’ve got to go out and get the data,” said Alexander.

Ah, data. Most organizations are already trying to use data to figure out what their customers really want, need and do. Why can’t they use data to figure out what their own business and IT units really want, need and do? Alexander said they can and they should.

“It’s about mining internal sentiment in the organization and matching it with a roadmap of how to improve processes,” he said.

How do you build a data-driven IT strategy? Alexander said it comes down to defining IT’s mandate, measuring IT’s performance and analyzing internal capabilities.

Ask business units what they want to achieve and how they expect IT to help. Then measure how well IT is currently supporting those efforts. (Info-Tech suggests metrics that track IT’s impact on technology performance, business value, stakeholder satisfaction, risk mitigation and costs.)

Once you’ve got all that data, use it to make a much stronger case about where IT really needs to spend its time and money.

If your CEO ever calls you a bad dancer, the data might just prove that you’re actually making all the right moves.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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