These 4 responsibilities just jumped to the top of CIOs' to-do lists

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CIO Moving Up

For the last 14 years, CIO Magazine has conducted its State of the CIO survey, which serves a dual purpose. The primary goals are to find out how the roles of IT leaders are evolving in the face of new business challenges, as well as to help define the CIO agenda for the year ahead. And one of the questions asked of CIOs every year does a good job of meeting both objectives; it simply asks: “How are you spending most of your time?” We caught up with Adam Dennison, senior vice president and publisher of IDG Enterprise, to find out how the priorities of today's CIOs and IT leaders have shifted over the last year.


The Enterprisers Project (TEP): CIO Magazine's State of the CIO Survey does a great job bringing to light the activities, concerns, opportunities, challenges currently on the minds of IT leaders. Did you notice any big shifts in how CIOs are spending their day-to-day?

Adam Dennison

Dennison: Absolutely. There were four key areas where we saw big jumps this year, but time spent on security was the most noticeable change. It came as no surprise that our 2015 survey reflected a heightened sense of responsibility in this arena. The year before was commonly dubbed “the year of the breach” in IT circles, so we were not shocked to see that time spent on security management jumped from 24 percent in 2014 to 31 percent in 2015. The trend was also reflected when survey respondents were asked what their CEO's top priorities for the CIO were for the coming year. Cybersecurity jumped from the number eight priority in 2014 to number four in 2015.

It's clear that security is no longer a functional task for a CIO. It’s not a back-office afterthought. It has become a boardroom discussion, and it's paramount in any initiative that CIOs are going to undertake in the foreseeable future. If IT leaders want to embrace the sexy, new technologies they are hearing about today—the SMAC stack, third platform, Internet of Things, etc—security is going to be upfront and at the center of the discussion. And as CIOs spend more of their time on security, budgets will follow.

TEP: Have you noticed any new responsibilities added to a CIO's daily to-do list that you might not have seen in previous years?

Dennison: While it's not a new task, these days CIOs are spending more time either in front of the board or preparing for board discussions. Lately, those discussions have been focused on security, and IT leaders have had to figure out how to present a strategy that is continuously evolving in response to complex security challenges.

Also, being a change agent is noticeably higher on CIOs' priority lists compared to previous years. It's no wonder that CIOs are spending more time managing change when there is so much change happening in the IT field. Even going beyond the adoption and integration of emerging technology, CIOs are also challenged with keeping their team on pace with the speed at which digital technology is transforming business practices.

For example, user experience is becoming more important with the consumerization of technology. The cloud is changing or replacing legacy ways of doing business. While these changes and high-value initiatives may be apparent to the CIO and maybe a few other folks at the top, pushing that vision throughout the entire IT department is not easy. Some of the largest organizations have an issue with an aging workforce that is more resistant to the impact of digital change on our businesses and in our lives. I think we'll continue to see greater and greater time spent in this area as CIOs face these and other challenges related to change management.

TEP: Were there any surprising takeaways for CIOs in the survey results this year?

Dennison: It's clear that the job of understanding the customers is falling increasingly to the CIO, and it will become more and more critical to their success. CIOs are feeling the pressure to become more customer friendly as the expectations of “always-on,” hyper-connected consumers create new demands on IT. Quite literally, some of their jobs depend on it. We recently spoke with Eash Sundaram, CIO of JetBlue, who told us that one-third of his job performance rating is tied to the customer experience. That is a staggering to think about.

If CIOs want to remain relevant and competitive in the digital age, they will need a deep understanding of their customers' needs and how to meet them with technology. The best and truest way to do that is to dedicate time to it – meet with customers face to face, ride along with sales teams, etc.


Adam Dennison brings more than 15 years of media sales experience to his role as Senior Vice President & Publisher for IDG Enterprise, leading the integrated sales team. In this role, Dennison oversees the brands go-to-market strategies, including brand positioning, market research and creating turnkey solutions for his clients. Dennison joined IDG in 2007 as National Sales Director for the Custom Solutions Group where he excelled in providing innovative marketing services. A popular moderator, speaker and columnist, Dennison possesses an in-depth knowledge of emerging technologies and key strategies for marketing to IT decision-makers. These insights are shared in his regular CIO magazine column. Additionally, Dennison has recently spoken at several conferences and private events for companies including Avaya, Citrix, Dropbox, Samsung and VMware.

Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.