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CIOs, CTOs shed yet more techie cred

Carolyn Duffy Marsan | Nov. 8, 2011
Should any doubts linger, CIOs and CTOs are techies first no more.

Should any doubts linger, CIOs and CTOs are techies first no more.

The corporation's top IT executives are spending more of their time than ever on business issues, such as finding ways to generate revenue and speed products to market through the adoption of new technology, rather than worrying about day-to-day operations of data centers or networks.

The trend of CIOs and CTOs focusing on management concerns rather than IT infrastructure isn't new. But experts say it is accelerating as corporations emerge from the latest recession, offload more IT functions to outsourcing companies, and adopt cloud-based applications.

"That trend -- CIOs more involved in business issues that involve technology instead of focusing on technology infrastructure -- has been gaining steam for years," says David Foote, president and CEO of Foote Partners, which tracks IT hiring and compensation in North America. "[I'm] noticing that the CIO job has vanished at several employers as they distribute IT strategy, investments, staffing and decision-making all over the enterprise. At some companies, the CIO now just manages external relationships with vendors and managed service providers and participates in tech and information strategy."

"Running IT infrastructure hasn't been a top priority for CIOs for a long time," agrees Mark Polansky, managing director of the Information Technology Officers Practice at recruiting giant Korn/Ferry. "What's been happening is that CIOs are delegating their infrastructure either internally to a CTO or externally to an outsourcer or more recently to the cloud. ... Infrastructure is not strategic. It has no value-add. It's all about providing world-class service and availability on a world-class price/performance basis."

A recent survey of CIOs and CTOs by the Society for Information Management (SIM) highlights this trend.

The SIM survey found that 84% of CIOs were "always" engaged in the allocation of IT infrastructure resources, but only 20% of CTOs were "always" engaged in the allocation of IT infrastructure resources. On the flip side, 4% of CIOs and 47% of CTOs said they were "never" involved in these decisions.

These numbers were surprising to Professor Jerry Luftman, executive director of graduate information systems programs at Stevens Institute of Technology, who conducted the SIM survey.

"Only 84% of CIOs are always engaged in IT infrastructure. That should be 100%," Luftman said. "This shows confusion about the CIO and their role on IT infrastructure. ... Even if they're outsourcing their infrastructure, they've got to be involved in the decision making. They can't let the vendor do it all."

Luftman said the results for CTOs were "even nuttier."

"IT infrastructure ought to be part of the CTO's job," Luftman said. "The CTO in a commercial environment is the engine room guy. This is the guy in charge of the network, the hardware and the systems. ... The titles must be changing."


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