Cambridge, Mass. - In the 1980s, with a few exceptions, CEOs perceived information technology/business technology (IT/BT) as an important underpinning of company operations, but not as a critical strategic tool, according to George Colony, chairman of the Board and CEO at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. 

Forrester surveyed 75 global CEOs to find out how CEOs feel about IT/BT now. The survey reveals:

  • 60% of CEOs are satisfied with the overall performance of IT/BT.
  • But only 28% see IT/BT as a proactive leader in innovation.
  • And only 30% see IT/BT as a proactive leader in process improvement.

While some may conclude from these numbers that CIOs are in pretty good standing with CEOs, Colony says the fact that 60% of CEOs believe that CIOs are doing a satisfactory job is bad news "If only 60% of your top executives were satisfied with the performance of the CFO, that would signal meaningful distrust in the financial operations of your company," he says.
The numbers also imply that CIOs have not stepped up to the plate as innovation and process mavens. "And the fact that CEOs are not looking to the CIO to be a proactive leader in innovation and process is not bad news. Rather, it is a frank assessment by the CEO that the CIO should not be, indeed cannot be, the driving force in these two areas," says Colony.

Colony does however believe the CIO has a role in process change. "IT/BT typically supports and manages the process backbone—think ERP—of most firms. When technology is injected into a company, the effort will fail unless it incorporates process change and organizational change," he says. "I call this the critical triad—technology/process/ organization—and the three must always be viewed collectively and as acting in concert. While the CIO brings technology to the table, business executives (especially the CEO) must spend political capital to change process and organization. This is a collaborative effort, with the CIO working with the business people to get the right mix."

When it comes to business innovation, the CIO is again not the proactive driver, Colony says, but rather the steady partner with business executives who are chartered to lead business innovation. "For business executives to effectively drive process change and innovation, they must have a solid understanding of technology," he says. "The CIO must be in the business of educating and teaching the businesspeople so that they can make the leap."

Source: Forrester Research Inc.


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