The April edition of CIO East Africa publication has featured results from our first State of the CIO survey in the region. The objective was to understand the CIO; their business role, where they stand as individuals including their annual remuneration, how they see the future and their corporate spend as a percentage of revenues.

The survey was conducted online and in just one month out of which we received 41 responses from the 100 invited participants. A summary of the results is reproduced elsewhere in the publication, but my observation is, CIOs are changing gears.

Why do I say this?

There are several pointers from the survey that I want to share to support my argument. First is their strategic access to top management. 60% of the CIOs who responded to the survey indicate that they answer directly to the CEO. This is a major shift from just about five years ago when CEOs view IT professionals with suspicion and did not want anything to do with them. In fact in most cases they would be relegated to the finance manager.

Only 15% of CIOs indicated that they reported to the Chief Finance Officer. To me this goes to underline the importance that CEOs now view the contribution of IT in their businesses. That it is a strategic investment which requires top level strategic decision making, these are the signs that before long, we shall see CIOs being invited and sitting in the Board.

When we asked them what they would like to spend their time on in the next 3 - 5 years, it got even more exciting. 90% of the respondents indicated that they would like to spend their time developing and refining business strategy; 84% indicated that they would like to spend most of their time innovating for the business while 81% indicated that they would be cultivating the Business-IT partnership.

Now, this is the crunch. Until recently many CEOs in the region were actually frustrated that their CIOs never understood the business side of things. But from this survey, majority of CIOs are breaking away from their technical mold and morphing into fearless business leaders. Aligning IT with business has always been a challenge to CIOs since most of them did not consider business as a core IT function.

But with the changing of the enterprise all c-level executives have to think business else they find themselves out of place. Making the top five functions that CIOs would like to be spending on by 2015 is re-designing business processes and aligning IT initiatives to business goals. This is a total change in the way CIOs are thinking. Ofcourse CIOs are meant to be the interface between business and IT, but this has not been the case. In fact many CIOs are still playing at the CTO space and involve themselves with the technical side of IT -- which is their comfort zone -- and totally blacking out the business side of things.

So reading these responses from the 41 respondents was a welcome sign that things are changing for the best. And that it's probably time organisations started taping into this newly found energy to re-position IT into their business.