As CIO UK announces the 2013 CIO 100 the volume calling for CIOs to forge closer relationships with the CMO or to become digital sales and marketing experts increases daily. This demand is largely well meant, but ignores the reality of our working lives; that under existing conditions innovation is being choked before it can draw breath. The CIO 100 demonstrates that there is a strong CIO body out there ready to grasp every opportunity. But the truth is, and this title has witnessed it, opportunity is not being offered.

The CIO role is a big responsibility and CIOs are more than aware of and responsible for the delivering margin and meeting targets. But if organisations refuse to be realistic and seek growth from rhetoric rather than adjust to the facts, then the CIO and their peers across the organisation cannot be expected to find additional innovation. CIOs tell us of difficulties in recruitment and budgets remain tight. Innovation rarely comes cheap and almost never for free.  If organisations expect their CIOs to offer more insight, to dabble with the new and to modernise the organisation then some investment in resources as valuable as time, people and budgets is critical.

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Ian Cohen of JLT and Willem Eelman of Unilever are two CIOs that have these opportunities and which is reflected in their position in the CIO 100. Cohen’s social strategy has modernised an organisation that realised it needed a strong CIO, but also that it needed to give that CIO some freedom and resources to show the art of the possible. Unilever is an organisation that lives in the very real world of soap powders and keeps its strategy and data clean by looking at economic realities and with Eelman’s help has modernised its sales approach to win continued business rather than chasing fantasy targets.

James Thomas of UCLH and Gerry Pennell of the London Olympics show that what can be done when you invest in allowing people to do what they do best. The CIO 100 is here to highlight and share the transformative abilities of the CIO community no matter the scale. The question now is: do our organisations talk innovation but mean targets? And do they have strength of character that CIOs have to really embrace change?