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Happy CEOs delusional about CIO performance

A new study says your CEO is satisfied with your job performance, but then again, it appears he doesn't really know what you do.

The good news: Your CEO thinks you're doing a good job. The bad news: He has low expectations.

A report released today from Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., revealed that while 78% of the CEOs surveyed say they're happy with the job performance of their CIOs, fewer than half have any confidence in IT as a contributor to business success.

The survey of 71 CEOs from firms that had more than $100 million revealed that, if anything, there's a huge gap in perception, said Laurie Orlov, a Forrester analyst.

The question is this: Does any of this bode well for CIOs? Perhaps not, Orlov said, but it depends on your point of view. In one respect, CEOs think CIOs are doing a good job and that's a good thing. But if they have low expectations, CIOs have to look at why -- and fix it.

"CEOs may have low expectations of IT for a variety of reasons," she said. "Possibly this is post-dot-com disappointment as to what you can really do with technology."

Or, she said, perhaps IT still doesn't know how to market itself. CIOs could possibly be sitting behind their protective shield of uptime stats and system upgrades. "The IT comfort zone," she said. It could also be that IT is risk averse -- or, finally, that CEOs don't understand or care about the impact that IT could have.

The bottom line: CEOs still don't think of IT as leaders in much of anything -- except maybe finding cheap technology.

The Forrester report revealed that only 28% of CEOs characterized IT as offering proactive leadership, with 34% portraying IT's role as poor or mediocre, and 24% seeing IT as innovating only when pushed to do so.

While IT supports and typically is quite familiar with the business processes of the firm, only 30% of the CEOs in the survey said they believe IT is proactive in process improvement.

Overall, 54% of the surveyed CEOs were not impressed with IT's ability to track and report on assets -- people and equipment -- either, with only 31% observing that IT was effectively managing assets as part of its ongoing responsibility.

CEOs in the smaller firms surveyed -- those with fewer than 5,000 employees -- reported lower than average perception of IT, both as a proactive leader in process improvement and as a contributor to business success. But despite these seemingly negative impressions of IT's role, these CEOs had a higher-than-average satisfaction with IT performance. This mismatch could spell trouble as a company grows and its expectations of IT shift.

Probably not surprising to anyone, however, is that in all areas, the CEOs' satisfaction and expectations of CIOs increased if they believed them to be very good communicators -- or if they hired them.

Wake up CEOs you need IT, it's pervasive, start expecting more.

Laurie Orlov, analyst, Forrester Research Inc.

"I feel sorry for CIOs in some respects, but I also think that it takes two to tango. Business executives let themselves off the hook at what IT can do for their business," Orlov said. "Wake up, CEOs: You need IT, it's pervasive, start expecting more. CIOs, start marketing what you do, wake up, do more, take a risk and explain what you want to do in business terms."

Easier said than done, as most CIOs find themselves without the clout to take action. The fact is, said Judy B. Homer, president of New York City-based JB Homer Associates Inc., a national IT staffing firm that focuses on recruitment of CIOs, is that in order to execute change, CIOs need to have the responsibility and the authority to affect change.

"I think the question the CEO has to ask himself is how much authority have I given my CIO in order for him to have a seat at the table so that he hears what's going on and he can utilize technology as something that really could be business innovative. Every CIO's dream is really to affect the business. Because other than that, there's no job, so what's the point?"

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