First things first: Who'd actually want to be a CIO now? The question might sound flip. Naive, even. But consider how companies have traditionally thought of the CIO role and those people given the assignment: Men and women who knew how to keep the trains running on time and lights on. Grown-ups who knew their servers and storage, but were prone to techno-babble once called to The Big Conference Room. Strategists? Hardly. Business leaders? Yeah, right.
For that matter, just what is a Chief Information Officer actually supposed to do? Unlike, say, the CFO title, "CIO" has been a nebulous moniker for many business execs from the get-go. The title is "very diffused," says Abbie Lundberg, the former editor of CIO magazine, now a consultant working with CIOs on strategy and executive communication skills. "It has tons of potential and can mean different things in different companies, depending on what their goals are."
It's no surprise, then, that Tom Davenport, Babson College's Distinguished Professor of Management and IT, says this: "I hardly get anybody ever who wants to be a CIO, which is probably indicative of something. And if they do want to be a CIO, it's like: 'Fine, it'd be useful to rotate through this for a while on my path toward CEO.' I think people respect technology, but there aren't that many people anymore who want to be career CIOs."
Why? "It's just not the center of the action anymore, in terms of technology," Davenport says.
As strange as Davenport's last statement may sound (read it again), one can easily make the case that IT leaders face unprecedented challenges today. First up, there's the "C" word: Complexity. According to the annual IBM (IBM) survey of CEOs, 80% of CEOs are worried about growing complexity in their businesses (of which IT is a big concern) and more than half of them admit that they are ill-equipped to deal with it.
Then there's the New Normal economic climate laden with instability; and a push for ever greater business efficiency and "do more with less" mantra. Finally, there's the advent of cloud computing, social media and mobile devices that have greatly empowered workforces everywhere.