This past summer, Forrester conducted a series of in-depth interviews of CIOs (as well as some directors of IT planning and finance) to get a better understanding of their roles:  how they see the role in the context of their organizations, how they are evaluated by senior management, their key success imperatives, and their information needs.  We sat down with each of them for an hour to help shape how we support the most senior executives within IT.
Not surprisingly, they all agreed that their number one priority (and the big responsibility that they don’t feel comfortable delegating) is to foster the relationship IT has with (and the respect it gets from) “the business.” What they do to tackle that responsibility varies depending on the expectations of the larger organization:  how focused they are on delivering key projects versus driving business innovation.  This is similar to the “Archetypes of IT” which Forrester described in 2006 in a series of reports: the “Solid Utility,” “Trusted Supplier,” and “Partner Player” archetypes.  The significance of these IT archetypes is that they are based on the expectations of IT by the larger business organization – not on how IT views itself.  IT is successful only in the context of these expectations, so an IT organization can’t be a “Partner Player” if the business only expects a “Solid Utility.” And if the business expects a “Partner Player”– then IT had better execute as such, or risk marginalization (and probably getting a new CIO).

This singular focus on the IT-business relationship manifests itself in the other big topics that are on the minds of most of the CIOs we spoke with – topics that will drive the focus of our 2010 CIO research content:

• Future IT trends & innovations. CIOs need heIp identifying the key emerging technologies that should impact their planning and investment. They want to institutionalize innovative technologies like cloud and social computing that can drive business innovation.

“I’m interested in what’s coming around the next corner, not where we’re walking right now.”
• IT talent management. CIOs are very interested in current and future IT process, org design, culture, and leadership best practices. They’re grappling with growing skills, training, compensating, hiring, and terminating IT people – especially as their workforces shift dramatically.

“We need best practices around talent management in a global IS/IT space — starting with where do we get people and what should our expectations be, and then how do we keep them.”

• Benchmarking data (spending, staffing, leadership best practices). IT budget benchmarks continue to be a hot topic for CIOs, especially in the wake of a recession that has caused companies to cut IT budgets to the bone (or beyond).  CIOs need IT budget benchmarks to defend their budget levels, to determine whether more cuts are in order, and/or to build the case for increased IT spending.

“I’m always interested to know how I’m doing relative to peer organizations. How does my performance compare against metrics we share? What metrics do others collect? How do I inform management they’re getting the best they can from IT?”

• IT governance & metrics. Whether it’s portfolio management, demand management, or investment optimization, CIOs continue to press for best practices that drive a culture of performance and value.

“I need to find measures that will link business performance to IT approach. To educate them on how these are not just IT issues.”

• Marketing of IT. CIOs continue to work to perfect their methods for communicating IT value and activities, both within IT and the other business orgs, with the goal of creating trust and successful adoption of technologies.

“We need help in selling the value of IT. Our chairman knows he needs technology for growth and strategic things, but still sees it as a cost center. His first question is still how to make it cheaper.”

Tell me what you think — Do you agree with these priorities? Do you have recommendations for our research focus?