Although that may sound like a keep-the-lights-on role, an IT organization that can do this well will create competitive advantage for the whole company, Baril says.
"Almost all organizations have a difficult time providing information architecture and software architecture that's able to drive the strategic vision of the company," he explains. "Being able to create a platform that quickly can respond to different initiatives and different needs is very strategic. It is a skill in and of itself, and companies that have it will beat their competitors to market. Having an information architecture and strategic software platform that allows a company to move at the speed it needs is a differentiator."
But some observers argue that CIOs should be defining strategy and not just enabling it. "A lot of companies think they have a CIO and they really have a director of IT services," Meehan says. "If you're struggling with satisfaction quotients in an IT survey around your basic services — things like laptop deployment and desktop imaging and help desk — you're a director of IT services. That's also true if you are still struggling with piles of applications and platforms in your back office and you haven't cost-optimized, centralized and standardized these functions."
On the other hand, he says, "If you're driving strategy, creating a digital, high-performance workplace, and working in consultative fashion on product development, you're a CIO."
Fowler agrees. For example, although GE's field service engineers were perfectly content with how they were doing their jobs, he suggested to them that it was time for a change. "I said, 'You're still doing this on paper.' We consolidated 86 different functions in a system that was built for a field engineer." As a result, he says, one of those services saw a productivity gain of $200 million last year.
"For years, we've been hearing that process should drive technology and technology should never drive process," he says. "I don't believe that's true anymore. Technology is becoming the process. In a world of automation, where machines are telling people what to do more than people are telling machines what to do, the person who's been doing this for all these years should be the one to explain how the work gets done. We should have the credibility and the influence to step up and show people there's a better way."
How to cope with technology outside of the IT department
The Logicalis survey also asked respondents how much of the IT decision-making at their organizations is handled by CIOs and how much is handled by business executives. Only about 6% of those polled said the CIO makes 100% of the IT decisions.
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