Who's the best boss for IT?

Debate is raging about whether a CIO or IT manager should report to the CEO or CFO.

The consensus seems to be that it is much better for a CIO to report directly to the CEO (or COO). At companies where the CIO reports to the CEO, IT is viewed as an investment. No one argued for a reporting relationship to the CFO because detractors claimed those companies that have one see IT as a cost to be managed, curtailed or cut.

Reefe Brighton, CIO at Aurora Energy said he reports to the CEO and is a member of the executive team.

Responsible for an annual IT budget of $10 million to $15 million (including capital expenditure and communications), Brighton said he does need to get approval for IT from the CFO and CEO.

"For our organisation (relatively small with a deliberately flat structure) this arrangement is the most appropriate for us," he said.

"IT is hardly of critical importance to our business, but it represents a substantial investment and affects all our divisions."

Brighton said whether CIOs or IT manager report to the CEO or CFO depends on the strategic importance of IT within a business, its size and breadth of operations.

"All companies should view IT as an investment, otherwise they shouldn't be spending the money. However, the size and importance of the investment will change with each company," he said.

An IT manager from a consulting company, who wished to remain anonymous, said he reports to the chief operations officer (COO).

He said reporting procedures are often dependent on the outlook of the CFO and the history of IT within a company.

"But it should be like any business decision: if it will improve the company, then spend," he said.

The IT manager said in his organisation, technology is viewed as a cost to be managed.

What they said

Asked to vote in a CIO poll on the category -- as originally defined in a Sloan Management Review article -- that best described their chief executive officer - CIOs responded thus:- 27 per cent The Hypocrite, who espouses strategic importance of IT but negates belief through personal action.

  • 19 per cent The Believer, who believes IT enables strategic advantage and demonstrates belief through action.
  • 18 per cent The Waverer, who reluctantly accepts strategic importance of IT.
  • 14 per cent The Monarch, who accepts IT is important, appoints the best CIO and steps back.
  • 11 per cent The Agnostic, who concedes IT is important but needs repeated convincing.
  • 8 per cent The Zealot, who is convinced IT is important and equally believes he is an IT expert.
  • 2 per cent The Atheist, who is convinced IT is of little value and publicly espouses this belief.

Total number of respondents: 159. Numbers do not add up to 100 per cent due to rounding.

-- How do you view your CEO? E-mail comments to lauren_thomsenmoore@idg.com.au

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