IT also needs to be out in front of line of business managers' burgeoning interest in cloud computing--guiding them through the hype to figure out "what's valuable in the hype and what things should be avoided, and making trade-offs and decisions," Martin says. "That's a fundamental thing we have to do."
The growing trend of line of business managers circumventing IT is also an opportunity for CIOs to raise their profile and ingratiate themselves into the business to show real leadership, says SuperValu's Shurts. "We have to be proactive," he says. "We need to tell the story [to our business peers] around integration and data being the same in different places, since you'll end up with siloed applications at the end if we don't work together and get the data right across the enterprise."
Many CIOs today can claim additional responsibilities outside of traditional IT duties. For instance, there's CIO Gary Reiner who also runs GE's $55 billion procurement group. Or CIO Steven Gillett who's in charge of Starbucks' Digital Ventures team that's working on in-store tech and media offerings.
American Airlines' Ford terms this CIO personal development strategy "getting outside your comfort zone." When he first joined American, for instance, he asked for and received the additional role of building out AA's e-commerce and online efforts. And though that's no longer his direct responsibility (he handed it off to a new marketing hire some years later), he's still helping co-innovate Web-based and mobile applications today.
One of the most vexing and divisive questions CIOs have faced over the years is "What is the value of IT?" The inherent slight contained within the question is matched only by the difficulty in attempting to give an accurate and honest answer.
"It's rare to find an executive who doesn't think technology is important," says IT strategist Potts. "They don't always know why, but they do. Yet you can't put a number on it."
How, then, are businesses supposed to measure the performance of CIOs and overall value of their IT departments? The easy answer is: It's difficult. Sure, a CEO can look at uptime/downtime figures, project portfolio management numbers, and budgetary considerations to gauge how IT is performing.
But identifying precisely what differentiates an operational CIO from a truly strategic one is less metrics-based and more based on the perception of IT, the profile of the CIO and the how often the CIO leads or co-innovates outside the IT department.