I’ve noticed a discussion trend among CIOs recently: Is the CIO job the worst job in the C-suite?  A recent email from a non-CIO put a pretty fine point on the CIO problem:

“You couldn’t pay me anything for that role . . . they have no budget and they are basically glorified PM’s.

And, in fact, some CIO roles do seem to be glorified PMs.  Always at the beck and call of other parts of the business, these CIOs see their role as ensuring that projects stay (mostly) on track, tracking finances and keeping the lights on.  It’s not a bad role, it’s just not exciting.  And, during the recent financial crisis, it seemed to be the way most CIO’s operated.

But today, there seems to be a new feeling in the air among CIOs.  Many of them, especially the ones who have taken the career because they really are excited by the things that technology can do, are looking beyond project management and financial risk management, and into competitive uses of IT.

This is why I believe that the CIO role can be one of the most engaging roles in the C-suite.  If the basic blocking and tackling of managing projects and money has been taken care of, then the opportunities that are presented by the CIO job can be fascinating.  How can we change our industry?  How can we change our business?  How can we connect with customers in a new way?

It became unfashionable to discuss these ideas in businesses over the last 5 years or so (except in Silicon Valley), but today, we see and feel a change in the air.  CIOs, in even the most old school companies, are once again thinking about strategic uses of technology.  They are once again being creative.  They are once again, one of the most interesting jobs in the C-suite.