Realising value from a Chief Information Officer

  • CIO role is transitory with a clear beginning, middle and end
  • Tensions arise when the CIO is out of sync with business needs

The information age may be upon us, but the value of information has yet to be fully exploited by British companies. Though the majority of UK companies have an IT director – too few have a Chief Information Officer (CIO) on the senior management team. As a consequence, too few companies are using their information assets to power innovation, strategy and growth.

According to a new report from Cranfield School of Management and Deloitte the Chief Information Officer should be playing a central role, ensuring information underpins business strategy; but the study finds that the role of a CIO is ill-defined, confused, with poor understanding of its scope and many CIOs feel perpetually out of the loop. This lack of clarity extends to CIOs themselves.

Realising value from a CIO: navigating the silicon ceiling looks at the nature and dynamics of the role of the CIO.  It examines how organisations can successfully align the CIO role with their evolving business.

The research revealed that the role of a CIO is particularly sensitive to the precise context and needs of an organisation.  Tensions arise between CIOs and their peers when the CIO is out of sync with these evolving business needs.  Professor Chris Edwards from Cranfield School of Management explains:  “The role of the CIO is transitory; it has a clear beginning, middle and end. Our research has identified five states of information and technology leadership, only three of which will require a CIO.  It is critical that the organisation identifies and deploys the ‘appropriate’ CIO type for their current need.  Frustration and confusion occur in situations where an ‘inappropriate’ CIO type is deployed.”

The report argues that the career path of the CIO is not linear, and the CIO’s detailed IT knowledge is not necessarily a prerequisite to success. “Far more important will be their ability to lead innovation, drive change, develop information awareness and expand it across the broader organisation,” believes Professor Chris Edwards from Cranfield School of Management.

The research analysed the role of the CIO from a new perspective by drawing on the views of CEOs, investors, analysts, consultants, industry commentators and CIOs themselves.  The findings suggest that organisations should continually review the information and technology needs of their business and assess the type of CIO needed to generate value - there is no ‘one size fits all’ CIO.

Dave Tansley, a partner in Deloitte’s consulting practice who jointly led the research, explains the growing importance of the role of the CIO: “Vast volumes of data are generated by companies every day. Many of them simply do not realise the value of the data that they are sitting on. An opportunity exists now for technology to maximise the value of that data. Those that leverage the value of information will have a distinct advantage, particularly in the current economic climate. But having clarity on the role of the individual that will lead that endeavour is an absolutely essential first step. Without a CIO, the chances of succeeding are extremely slim.”

The report concludes that the ultimate objective of the CIO’s role is to create an environment in which information and technology are so intimately and fundamentally bound to every aspect of the business that the need for a CIO diminishes.

“In many respects, the best CIOs will be like good regulators. They will intervene, make structural changes and then find that as a result, they are no longer needed. But in many respects, that’s the real opportunity – because as business becomes more information-centric, CIOs will have the opportunity to move on to other senior management roles,” said Dave Tansley.

Other key findings of the report include:

Even though the CIO role has existed for well over a decade, there is still considerable confusion as to its purpose and contribution which results in companies not leveraging IT to its full potential.

While there appears to be a trend towards greater understanding and appreciation of information and technology within the business, action is required in terms of appointing and empowering an appropriate CIO.
Companies frequently view IT as a back-office function resulting in key strategic decisions being made without the involvement of the CIO (or equivalent).

Where CIOs are effective tends to be in organisations that allow them to use IT as an important strategic driver. Where they are not effective is typically where the CIO is seen as little more than a glorified IT Director.

For further information, read our executive summary and download a copy of the report Realising value from a Chief Information Officer.


Notes to editors
To request a copy of the report or to schedule an interview please contact:   

Emily Orton, Press Office, Cranfield School of Management on +44 (0) 1234 754348 or 

Jason Leavey, Press Office, Deloitte on + 44 (0)20 7303 7030 or

The report is based on primary research which took the form of semi-structured interviews. There over 40 interviewees in total, of which 17 were CIOs, 14 were senior managers, and 11 were analysts, commentators, consultants or academics. Between them, the interviewees represented 42 organisations, spanning sectors as diverse as print media, financial services and legal education. The interviews were conducted during June and July of 2008.

About Cranfield School of Management
Cranfield School of Management is one of Europe’s leading university management schools renowned for its strong links with industry and business.  It is committed to providing practical management solutions through a range of activities including postgraduate degree programmes, management development, research and consultancy. 

About Deloitte
In this press release references to Deloitte are references to Deloitte & Touche LLP, which is among the country's leading professional services firms.

Deloitte & Touche LLP is the United Kingdom member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu ('DTT'), a Swiss Verein, whose member firms are legally separate and independent entities.  Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTT and its member firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

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