"Business can see we can solve their problems quicker. That's a huge plus."
In enhancing a personal work relationship with C-level peers, cost-center CIOs may be taking some ineffective steps. For example, they report planning to provide advice to others more often than planning to seek advice, which probably won't win friends, Heim says. CIOs do best when they listen first and ask lots of questions to understand an issue. "You have two ears and one mouth for a reason," he says.
Another example: Cost-center CIOs don't plan to—or perhaps can't—join C-level peers in customer meetings as often as strategic CIOs. Attending industry events together, socializing outside of work and celebrating wins outside of work are also more popular relationship-building activities for game-changers than for cost-center CIOs.
What's Best for You?
IT leaders who question whether the role is rewarding may want to think about why they're in the job. If optimizing the maintenance of legacy systems is satisfying, there's certainly less of that now for a CIO. But creativity—the ability to create something—is on the rise as a trait for CIOs. "I find," says Roy of CUNA Mutual, "that being able to use all the technology available to us today to do things that weren't possible before is very rewarding."
Certainly, no CIO is all one kind or another. The best CIOs, however, are nimble. Heim, for example, is helping develop Whirlpool's Internet-of-Things strategy, contemplating wild, business-changing ideas for dishwashers, refrigerators, washers and dryers that communicate with consumers through sensors. But he's also devising a technical plan for phasing out Windows XP—an important endeavor, although decidedly less glamorous. "Realistically, you have to spend time on all those activities," he says. "Your best tools are stamina and natural curiosity."
The Sidelined CIO
A substantial minority of CIOs say they feel sidelined. These same CIOs struggle with innovation and see an increase in shadow IT.
What you imagine for your professional future influences how you perform today. For some CIOs, things look dark: 28 percent say the CIO role is being "sidelined" and 52 percent say the CIO's future will be one focused on managing contractors, cloud and other IT service providers, according to our 13th annual State of the CIO survey.
Although they're in the minority, that sidelined 28 percent are worth some attention. Their behaviors and attitudes may indicate serious, but perhaps correctable, organizational problems. For example, those CIOs who say the IT group is perceived by colleagues as a cost center are much more likely to feel sidelined. They're probably under intense pressure to cut IT costs from old-school CEOs and CFOs. That's no fun. Nor is it good for the future of the company as business goes digital. Some CIOs are ready. Others clearly are not. Many are stuck somewhere in between, struggling with internal politics and old-style thinking, as well as with external economic and competitive forces they haven't seen before.
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