The State of the CIO research, put together by CIO UK's sister title in the US,  surveys 500+ CIOs and IT leaders on everything about their jobs, including budgets, business priorities, salaries, job tenure and levels of influence within the C-suite.

For 12 years now, it has tracked and promoted the arduous but rewarding journey so many CIOs have made in elevating IT from cost centre to business enabler to strategic partner.

In last year's State of the CIO research, it was revealed that the strategic influence was improving, but was still disconnected from competitive business issues. In 2011, with the recession abating, attention was turned to innovation, staff productivity and business-process efficiency.

It takes a lot of heart to be a great CIO--and a lot of leadership skills to make change happen as relentlessly as it does in a world gone digital. Technology is easy, CIOs will tell you, but people are hard.

Which is why you might be surprised to learn that this year's research shows that CIOs have made a welcome breakthrough in the last place you'd expect: the people factor. The majority of the 563 IT leaders we surveyed are making a concerted effort to market IT value and get their staffers out there, face-to-face with their business peers.

CIOs are elevating their teams' relationship with business people "by delegating more, developing leadership and cross-functional skills among their IT staff, and turning their attention to customers," writes CIO US Senior Editor Kim S. Nash in her story on CIOs becoming strategists:

CIO role become business strategist finds US CIO research

At WD-40 Company, VP of IT Bob Hoagland started sending his people to other departments' meetings, which was a little weird for everyone at first. (Why is that IT guy hanging around?) In one of the meetings, an applications manager heard a marketing colleague talking about the agony of juggling data from 175 spreadsheets. The IT staffer whipped up a Web-based application that solved her problem.

"The more people are involved with each other, the more ownership they will take for building relationships," Hoagland wisely observes.

Our story details many other smart moves CIOs are making to raise IT's status as a business partner and a friendly source of innovative ideas. We'd love to hear what you're doing at your company, too. What people factors will you work on in 2013?

Change is inevitable, but CIOs should not demand too big a leap from regular users