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CIOs’ new leadership role in the enterprise requires them to give up some past level of control

There’s a new opportunity for CIOs to establish a profit-center profile in the enterprise. But to best leverage this possibility of greater leadership, CIOs must also encourage a beneficial diffusion of greater IT responsibility across the business: clinging to complete IT control is counterproductive. Those are among the conclusions that could be drawn from the findings of another survey confirming tectonic shifts for IT management in the enterprise–as well as some concerning perceptions that non-IT executives have of their IT departments. Computerworld this week covered the poll of 1,000 C-level executives that Wakefield Research conducted for Avande in late February.

Confidence in moving technology decisions away from the CIO

Among the findings were several that point to businesses’ growing comfort and confidence in moving more IT decisions and IT budget responsibility away from the CIO:

  • 71% of C-level executives believe they can make technology decisions more quickly and effectively than IT organizations,
  • Non-IT departments control 37% of enterprise technology spending, and
  • One in five companies has a chief digital officer separate from the CIO.

Though old responsibilities still bog down IT, new roles are emerging

As for the IT organizations, there was evidence of too many departments still stuck in their old role, but also signs that they are shifting into a new one:

  • IT departments spend 36% of their time managing and maintaining legacy systems,
  • But in more than a third of the companies IT departments now serve primarily as service brokers addressing specific business needs, and
  • Most C-level executives are comfortable with IT staff interacting directly with customers and partners in a consultative role.

Implications for IT management

Among the implications for IT management are the following:

  • Getting legacy systems evolution and management squared away is just critical, as well as is getting to the agile and responsive adaptation to meeting new business needs;
  • Likewise, what’s critical about service brokering is understanding what the business needs—and then finding a way to get there, instead of taking a posture of “it can’t be done”;
  • Direct interaction with customers and partners is a great opportunity that seals the deal in managing IT as a revenue and profit, rather than cost, center; and, finally,
  • Looking at the interest of the enterprise in integrating more IT functions within lines of business and appropriate corporate departments is more important than trying to maintain a fiefdom of IT budget and control. The complementary balance of centralized and decentralized IT decision making should instead be the goal, with non-IT executives taking appropriate responsibility for IT investment and use within their units.