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CIOs get no respect in Gartner CEO survey. So what? Follow the money

For those who haven’t seen the recent Gartner CEO survey, CIOs come across in it as the Rodney Dangerfields of the C-suite. Not a person ever likely to occupy a CEO position, in the eyes of the CEO. Not the person CEOs see as leading their company’s “innovation management program.” Fewer than one in 200 CIOs are considered top executive material by their CEO. As for innovation, about a third of CEOs put themselves at the head of the pack of people responsible for the innovation program at their companies. Only the CFO (with zero votes) ranked lower than the CIO (with 4% of votes) as the person most likely to be leading the innovation program.

These CEO survey findings are sobering, but not as surprising as they were at first glance. I learned from Gartner analyst Mark Raskino that for some reason the poll excluded CEOs in the tech industry, where the path from CIO to CEO is more obvious. As for the poor showing of CIOs as innovation leaders, it’s a bummer — but, again, not unexpected from people with the requisite egos and survival instincts of CEOs. Rather than feel miffed, CIOs are better served if they follow the money.

According to the CEO survey, IT spending holds up fairly well: 40% of CEOs said they plan to increase IT spending in 2012. Where CEOs plan their biggest budget increases, however, is in sales (50%) and product enhancement (46%). Spending on risk management, legal and compliance is another priority (46%). On the other hand, marketing is relatively low on the totem pole (36% and seventh on the list of budget increases) in 2012. And what hardly any CEOs plan to spend more money on is business services (15%) and property and facilities (12%).

Gartner’s advice for CIOs, in so many words?

  • Do anything you can to help facilitate and lower the cost of sales.
  • Make sure you understand the risks and compliance issues the business faces, and do what you can to rationalize these burdens so the company is not spending money on redundant controls.
  • Since IT is considered by CEOs to be more investable than “business services,” banish that term from your IT budget.
  • And if you are thinking about expanding your duties by taking on facilities management — an area CIOs are sometimes asked to oversee — run the other way.

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