2020 State of the CIO: IT leaders mean business

Expansive revenue-generation responsibilities are helping IT leaders gain recognition for their leadership role.

After years of trying to wrangle a seat at the executive table, CIOs are finally being recognized for their leadership chops, joining their C-suite peers in defining core business strategy, cultivating customer and board room relationships, and taking on additional responsibilities as companies prepare for the next chapter in digital business. Many fast-track CIOs have been doing this kind of leadership and management work for years.

2020 state of the cio IDG

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What’s changing is a growing recognition in the executive ranks and among line of business (LOB) colleagues that tech leaders’ experience is essential for driving revenue growth and innovation— not just for optimizing enterprise IT infrastructure or promoting new technologies as part of digital transformation.

According to the 2020 State of the CIO, which surveyed 679 IT leaders and 250 line of business (LOB) participants, CIOs continue to devote less time to traditional functional responsibilities like expense management and optimizing IT performance.

Although security management is cur­rently a top activity for CIOs (45 percent), this is down from 51 percent in 2019 and is expected to decrease to 27 percent in the next three years. Functional activities such as cost control/expense management also decreased from 2019 (down four percent­age points to 29 percent), while strategic tasks such as identifying opportunities for competitive differentiation jumped four percentage points to 25 percent.

lob chart IDG Research

IT and business leaders value efficiency most. 

As part of their increasingly business-directed charter, CIOs are prioritizing efforts to align IT initiatives with business goals (44 percent), implement new systems and architectures (39 percent), lead change efforts (34 percent), drive business innovation (34 percent), develop and refine business strategy (23 percent) and devel­op new go-to-market strategies & technologies (22 percent).

The shift to these higher-value, business-oriented activities is no temporary blip on the CIO radar screen. Nearly half of survey respondents (46 percent) self-identify as a transforma­tional CIO, with close to a third (29 percent) assuming the mantle of business strategist and only a quarter describing their CIO role as primarily functional.

CIOs in the manufacturing and government sectors were more likely to self-identify as transformational (54 percent and 53 percent respectively) while high-tech (35 percent) and the services (39 percent) industries favored the strategic role. CIOs still married to the old-school functional identity trended higher in the services (34 percent) and retail (30 percent) segments.

Regardless of how they define their charter, CIOs are settling into the job and showing long term experience in their role. The average tenure for CIOs is now at 6.45 years, and most stay in the role between one and three years (23 percent), similar to the 2019 State of the CIO survey. The number of CIOs reporting directly into the CEO grew this year—47 percent compared to only 43 percent last year.