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CIOs, CTOs shed yet more techie cred

Carolyn Duffy Marsan | Nov. 8, 2011
Should any doubts linger, CIOs and CTOs are techies first no more.

Luftman said CIOs and CTOs appear to be less focused on IT infrastructure as they increase their use of outsourcing companies to maintain existing systems and applications, create new applications and operate data centers. The corporate push to cloud-based services will accelerate this trend, he said.

"The trend clearly is to reduce the amount of IT infrastructure that is run or maintained in-house," Luftman said. "The cloud is something that will facilitate that. ...We've learned that IT infrastructure is not how we differentiate ourselves. We differentiate ourselves with applications and services that run on the infrastructure."

The shift is evident in how CIOs spend their time. In the 2011 SIM Survey, CIOs said they spend 77% of their time on business issues -- such as managing relationships with business units, IT staff and vendors -- and 23% of their time on technical issues such as architecture, operations and software development. In 2010, the split was 74% of time spent on business issues and 26% on technical issues.

CIOs are more "business people than techies," Luftman said. "A good CTO is somebody who is focused on the technology. ... But I think the less technical the CIO, the better."

Polansky agrees CIOs should not be too technical.

"Leadership, leadership and leadership. Those are the three things that you most need in a CIO," Polansky said. "You need the ability to lead the IT staff, to lead your peers and to provide IT leadership for the senior-most executives and the board. This means being able to create a vision, to couple an IT strategy to the business strategy, and to deliver against that vision. It means you need the power of influence and persuasion that makes people have confidence in and believe in and follow the CIO and his vision for IT."

Polansky says that CIO is still the title of choice when corporations hire their top-most IT executive. Most CIOs have delegated IT infrastructure to one of their direct reports, often with the CTO title. CIOs also typically delegate responsibility for IT applications to one of their direct reports.

What's new for CIOs is that they're focusing less on using IT for cost-cutting and more on revenue generation, Polansky said.

"Three years ago, the emphasis was heavily on cost containment, cost management and even cost reduction. So the skills and abilities to cut costs while having minimal or no impact on service delivery were key," Polansky said. "Today, most forward-thinking companies have done most of the cost cutting they will do. Now the emphasis is on driving the top line, creating value through facilitating new products, new services, new markets."

Polansky said the need for CIOs to focus more on business versus technical issues is strongest at large multinationals. The CIO of a Fortune 25 company, for example, might focus 100% of his or her time on business issues, while the split might be 50-50 for a small business.


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