Businesses are turning to their chief information officers for help during the recession, according to a new report.

In a survey of 100 CIOs by IT leader group CIO Connect some 62 per cent said the management board was looking to them to help their companies adapt processes and technology. But 43 per cent still faced “unrealistic” expectations from the board.

Eight out of 10 CIOs sit on their companies’ executive or operating committees, but only one in five have a seat on the board. Over half felt they were in a strong position to build a deep knowledge of their firms’ strategy and business priorities.

When CIOs talked to other executives, 55 per cent said they spoke on strategy, another 54 per cent discussed transformational change, and 39 per cent talked about business profitability and ongoing projects.

CIOs generally have a broad, cross-sector background, the survey showed. Some 80 percent had moved between areas such as financial services to media, oil to legal, entertainment to utilities, and catering to distribution.

Nick Kirkland, chief executive at CIO Connect, said the role of the CIO was even more important during the tough conditions: “We are seeing CIOs emerging to take a leadership role in driving business change within their organisations.”

“The CIO is well positioned to interpret how their organisation best addresses the complexities of an economic downturn, the avoidance of disruption in any resulting organisational restructuring, the challenge of globalisation, and the sustained business and social changes that are being forecast for the coming years.”

But CIOs face some tough times ahead, and seven in 10 say improving the value from IT is a priority next year. Switching off legacy systems and standardising IT platforms were the main areas of focus, CIOs said.

Four in 10 say their budgets will not change, and the rest are split evenly between expecting an increase and a decrease. Most manage a budget of between £10 million and £50 million.

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