When I opened IBM’s CEO Study 2012 for the first time, I was quite disappointed. Headlines such as “CEOs are building analytical muscle” and “technology takes top spot” echoed like traditional vendor-speak in my ears.

But I was wrong. If you are a CIO thinking about your current and future role, take a few minutes of your time to read this document! Here are three takeaways for my CIO customers:

1)      Prepare to think differently about complexity. The CEO Study 2012 brings an obvious, yet counterintuitive, solution to the complexity gap, described in the previous CEO Study 2010 as: “Eight out of ten CEOs anticipate significant complexity ahead, less than half feel prepared to handle it.” IBM recommends that CEOs address this gap by empowering employees and encouraging collaboration, instead of a regulated, top-down approach based on controls. In the digital world, developing such a culture of openness goes far beyond traditional HR practices. While the CEO and HR will continue to be in charge of fostering a culture of transparency inside the organization, they will need you to manage the platforms and processes that inspire engagement on a massive scale, including for example facilitating communities and ideation.

2)      Partner with the CMO. According to the CEO Study 2012, CEOs are prioritizing customer insights far above other decision areas, and they rank customer obsession as the most critical leadership trait. Understanding individual customers based on real-time behaviors and developing new strategies for engaging them is undoubtedly the CMO’s job. But deploying these strategies requires IT capabilities to collect and access the data and extract useful insights from it. So be prepared to partner with the CMO to develop and manage the processes, skills, and tools required to assemble and display insights from multiple places, such as diverse customer databases and unstructured sources including blogs, third-party reviews, and social media.

3)      Drive the deployment of new approaches to decision-making. Since IBM started publishing the series of CEO studies 10 years ago, the role of technology has become increasingly important on CEOs’ radar. It now ranks as the number-one factor impacting organizations. CEOs now see technology as an enabler of collaboration and relationships among employees, customers, and partners — those essential connections that fuel creativity and innovation. With technology reinventing these connections, CEOs are contemplating different management systems and need your support to plan and manage the change. The challenge for you is to establish the best ways to share key aspects of tech-related decision-making across the organization— such as prioritization, funding, directing, evaluation and communications — that were traditionally controlled by an IT function and are now distributed across the entire organization. 

You can download the CEO Study 2012 from IBM. Forrester has published several reports around the three takeaways. To learn more you may want to start with Welcome to the Empowered Era or Empowered Business Technology Defined, and CIOs Must Merge IT With Marketing. You may wish also to join the webinar The Future of IT Governance on August 28.