Yet the revival promises to be brief. Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce.com, believes that the chief marketing officer will be spending more on technology than the CIO by 2017.
Benioff, who recently completed the $2.5bn (€1.9bn) acquisition of ExactTarget, a sales and marketing software company, noted the fastest growth in technology lies in digital, mobile and social; areas that are increasingly falling under the remit of the chief marketing officer of a company and alien to the traditionally conservative CIO.
The task of the tireless CIO was to make sure machines worked and data was kept secure.
The irony, according to the Harvey Nash survey, is that while the relationship between IT and finance/operations is strong, the weakest relationship that IT has in the business is with marketing.
Out of fashion, the CIO is starting to feel unloved, with 57% believing they lack support from the board to achieve IT vision.
“The journey of the CIO in recent years is quite similar to that of the CFO,” said Albert Ellis, Harvey Nash chief executive. “Fifteen years ago, the CIO was the IT manager who had to patch up computers and spend his time in the server room. Back then, the CFO was the company accountant who was the number-cruncher and behaved and looked like the average accountant.”
Now both roles occupy key strategic positions, Ellis said. The most popular successor to the CEO is usually the CFO on the Fortune 500 stage.
“CIOs evolved as IT became more central to the running of the business,” said Ellis.
Fifteen years ago, a retail business, for example, would have seen stock-taking as a manual, physical exercise, Ellis said.
Thanks to the evolution of technology and the guiding role of CIOs, barcodes were introduced and POS (point of sale) systems replaced old cash registers.
“Today, you walk into an Apple store and you are confronted by a person holding an iPad who can process your credit-card transaction on the spot,” said Ellis.
“Just as the CFO has evolved from the number-cruncher to the strategic financier supporting the CEO in making investments, the CIO has a critical role to play.”
Yet when CIOs should be getting the support of the board to move to the next big thing, they are facing a new rival in the chief marketing officer.
“We are now entering a scenario where 50% of the IT budget is controlled by the CIO and 50% is being controlled by the CMO,” Ellis said.
There has been the emergence of “shadow IT systems” where workers and line managers are bringing their own tablets and smartphones to work and subscribing to cloud-based platforms, such as Dropbox or Evernote, to do their job.
In essence, the CIO is often now in a battle for control of a business’s technology.
For Ellis, the CIO has to become more of an influencer and has to realise he or she can’t control everything.
“They should be positioning themselves as visionaries who are helping workers and people like CMOs to make choices and integrate with the secure systems they have put in place,” said Ellis.
“So the stark choice is to be an influencer or a controller. Choose the latter and you face a losing battle.”
The growth sectors in technology are not in PCs, servers or ERP systems, added Ellis; growth is coming from digital and marketing technologies.
One way of getting to the role of influencer is to move quickly on the emerging field of big data, said Ellis.
“Most CIOs would tell you they are more worried about small data and preventing data loss or falling prey to hackers and that’s fair enough,” he said. “But if you look at the revelations of Edward Snowden and the entire Prism story concerning US intelligence, then that is a big data story. If you were a big data cynic two weeks ago, you better wake up and smell the coffee.”
CIOs need to be fostering talent in areas that may seem alien to them: mobile and social media.
CIOs report skills shortages in mobile have grown by 11% this year, with 25% of all CIOs struggling to find the right mobile technologists.
In addition, 25% of CIOs cite skills shortages in big data and 19% for social media technology, up 8% on last year.
While the Harvey Nash survey flagged new challenges for CIOs, old problems persist. Some 14% of organisations said there were no women in their IT department.
For almost a third of organisations, women make up less than one in 10 IT employees.