In LinkedIn Answers this week, director at IBM Global Services Yaseen Babbar raised the question, "What is the future of the 'CIO' position in organizations?"
"Some people popularly refer to this as the 'Career Is Over' position and we have seen more people in this role get the severance during this downturn than any other 'C' level position," writes Babbar. "What is the rationale behind this phenomena?"
"IT in most cases is a cost center," responds Saqib Azmat, executive search consultant with People Perfect. "And like most cost centers, whenever there are costs to be cut, these centers are the first to get a stare. And so the story goes."
Some CIOs just fail to perform key aspects of their job, argues Simon Brocklehurst, general partner at Ash Biotech and CEO of Psynixis.
"In the last decade, some CIOs have really failed to enable their businesses to use IT as a competitive weapon that directly enhances the core businesses. So IT in many organizations is, in reality, simply a cost center. In tough times, companies look to reduce costs. Exit CIO," he writes.
Even when CIOs succeed in using IT as a "competitive weapon for business," Brocklehust continues, they may fail to communicate this value properly to their Boards in a way the Boards can understand.
"When people don't understand the 'value' of something, all they can do look at is the cost," says Brocklehurst. Therefore, IT is again perceived as a pure cost center and there goes the CIO.
CIOs are devalued because boards and shareholders don't understand what the role is to begin with, echoes records and information management consultant Paula Smith.
"The executive/management boards and shareholders simply don't understand what the CIO does," she writes. "If you do not understand what the role does, how can you assess the value it brings to an organization?"
Not all companies necessarily need a CIO, points out John Wurl, technology and business process improvement strategist. "Some companies really need this position and some need to focus more on appropriate business segments...it does not have to be only one person," he writes.
Combining "under the umbrella of one CIO" was somewhat easy when IT departments were considered back-office operational areas, expense-driven, understood only by a handful of people and the technologies were few, says Wurl.