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Are CIOs losing their mojo?

Are CIOs losing their mojo?

A recent SIM International study finds that fewer CIOs are reporting directly to the CEO. Instead, they're answering to less strategic executives, such as the chief operating officer or chief financial officer

The flip side

But CIOs who are willing to resist the tug of operational minutia and instead focus on learning and serving the business can become more influential within their organizations.

For example, Tom Franciosi, CIO at Covenant Dove, a skilled nursing and healthcare firm, moved up from reporting to the CFO in his past job to his current position, which reports directly to the chief executive.

"A lot of times, CIOs don't necessarily have financial discipline, and that can lead to them reporting to a CFO," he says. "In my past job, I reported to a CFO and subsequently learned quite a bit there. And I'm bringing all of that knowledge and experience to bear in this role and really conducting myself with the highest business acumen, making sure that the CIO stays a strategic function."

Because Covenant is growing through mergers and acquisitions, Franciosi's first task is implementing a US$12 million data standardization and centralization project that will consolidate 35 separate data centers into one large facility. The idea, however, isn't just to make IT more cost-effective or easier to maintain, although those goals are important.

"The idea is to engineer into the infrastructure a tremendous amount of flexibility," he says. "Because that will pay off in ways you can't anticipate at the beginning."

In his last job, for example, Franciosi had embarked on a centralization program for the nursing home company's overall time-and-attendance system, as well as implemented Citrix to centralize applications and standardize his end users' desktop experience.

The moves paid off, when in 2004, two of his locations needed to evacuate because of hurricanes. "We had 240 residents that were moved from two locations to six receiving locations, and in the middle of this process, one of the regional vice presidents called me and was concerned about processing payroll and continuing billing and collections, since the employees and residents were spread out all over the place," Franciosi says.

"Because we had made the centralization decisions up front, there was no problem. When they came into the receiving locations, all they had to do was find a local computer and walk up to the local time clock and swipe. Everybody got paid. We continued to do what we had to do, and it worked out fine. I would not have anticipated that as a need when I did the design work three years prior to that, but wow, that really paid off to the business as a whole."

Of course, not every CIO is as effective as Franciosi. According to the Center for CIO Leadership study, a majority of CIOs understand that promoting collaboration between IT and lines of business is a top priority. But only 15 per cent of respondents believe they are extremely effective at doing so, while nearly a quarter rate themselves as at or below average. In other words, there's plenty of room for CIOs to get better at IT/business alignment.

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