"Corporate America is moving past legacy hardware, software and IT management into IT being more strategic and enabling more transformational leadership," Polansky said. "So the demand for the good ideas from CIOs is actually accelerating."
That's certainly the shift at Denver-based Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, where Chris Laping has two titles: CIO and senior vice president of business transformation. He likes the second title better.
"My No. 1 responsibility is enabling and driving change," Laping said. "We can change people with technology. We can change people with learning. We can change processes. Technology is a tool in the toolbox around change, but we don't orient the organization around just technology."
Laping says that he is in his 11th year of having the title of CIO, which he finds too vague.
"People just don't get that [CIO] title," Laping said. "The rest of the world thinks I'm a press person in charge of disseminating information. CTO is actually a more cogent way of explaining externally what we do."
Some IT execs prefer a different title than CIO or CTO altogether. Jon Green, vice president of IT at Den-Mat, a Santa Maria, Calif., maker of dental supplies, said he is revamping his staff to focus more on business issues and less on technical support.
"I cut my IT staff in half last year and doubled my IS staff," Green said. "We're no longer running laptops. We're out in the business, figuring out processes and educating people on systems."
Green said his team covers everything from IT infrastructure to business analytics, and that his vice president of IT title covers the gamut of his responsibilities.
"I've had the CIO title. I've had the CTO title," Green said. "In this job, I report directly to the CEO, and all of us work as a team. The title is less important to me than the business infrastructure."
The CTO title remains popular with software companies, where it usually refers to the person in charge of product development rather than internal IT systems. Sometimes, the CTO handles both functions, as in the case of Gregory Carter, who recently became CTO of EDGAR Online of Rockville, Md. Carter is leading the company's push into cloud-based services but also oversees IT operations.
"I'm going to be setting the technology and product vision around expanding our horizons and taking the tacit knowledge that we have as experts in financial filings and disclosures through our full-service disclosure business and turning that into software and cloud-based services," Carter said. "I'm also responsible for developing all of our internal products ... the tools that our internal financial analysts use to process corporate data and turn it into highly accurate regulatory filings."
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