CIOs Still Matter In IT Purchasing Decisions

chief information officer, CIO, technology buying, technology purchasing

In the waning days of the 20th century, the acronym for chief information officer - CIO - was mockingly referred to in some quarters as “career is over.”

But despite increasing influence today by non-technology business units on technology buying decisions, some might offer a new acronym: Clout is omnipresent.

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A straw poll of attendees at last month’s Best of Breed Conference – sponsored by’s parent, The Channel Company – revealed that the CIO remains a force in enterprises’ technology-buying decisions. When asked how much they would agree or disagree with this statement – “My organization is prepared to meet the needs of LoB managers” – the answers broke down like this:

•    47 percent said they either “agree” or “strongly agree.”
•    47 percent said they “somewhat” agree or disagree.
•    3 percent neither agree nor disagree; and
•    3 percent said they strongly disagree.

That dichotomy was reinforced during two sessions at the conference, held in Orlando, Fla.

In one, Vince DeLuca, CEO of solution provider Logicalis U.S., said that as business strategies are being built around technologies, non-IT divisions – or line-of-business units – will usurp some of the power from traditional IT management. In fact, in a global survey conducted by Logicalis and released this week, 31 percent – nearly a third – of CIOs say they’re routinely bypassed by line-of-business units in IT purchasing decisions.

But that doesn’t mean the CIO and, by extension, the IT organization, will be moved to the back row. The Logicalis survey found that 66 percent of CIOs globally make more than half of their organizations’ IT purchasing decisions. That’s down slightly from a similar survey the solution provider conducted last year: 72 percent.

“IT will still play a major role in helping companies use technology and services to drive their respective services,” DeLuca said.

That means that solution providers who choose to do an end run around the CIO could put a potential sale at risk. Ramon Baez, global CIO for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, acknowledged the increasing clout of business units in technology strategy and, by extension, technology buying decisions.

But he also warned solution providers of the dangers in avoiding the CIO.

“When you overshoot (CIOs) and go right to the top, you alienate them, and they are not going to help you,” he said.

That’s a lesson that hasn’t been lost on Bob Hollander. The vice president of sales and marketing at Netelligent Corp., a solutions provider based in St. Louis, said the CIOs at many of his customers are more involved in the conversation today, especially on cloud-based technologies and other solutions that can help their companies become more innovative with technology.

“I used to talk to them a couple of times a year,” but today, Hollander talks with CIOs more often, he said.