WHEN JIM BROWNELL was CIO of Williams-Sonoma, he sat on the executive committee, reported directly to the CEO, and oversaw a strategic, multimillion-dollar replacement of the retailer's merchandising and warehousing system. But when a new CEO took over, he decided he wanted his own CIO. So last October, Brownell, a 25-year IT veteran, began looking for a comparable position elsewhere. He couldn't find one.
"When I looked at opportunities in CIO-land, they were unappealing.The cycle of CIOs reporting to CFOs is coming back, and it's not pleasing," Brownell says. "I heard the same story in every interview: 'We're looking for a new CIO because IT projects never deliver on time and they cost more than we expect and they don't deliver what we want. All our systems need to be replaced. Oh, and we're reducing the amount of money we're allocating for IT."
In May, Brownell accepted a job as senior vice president and general manager of Escalate, a California software vendor, rather than settle for a lesser CIO job. "Quite honestly," says Brownell, "I don't know why anyone would want the CIO job today."
The Dumbing Down of the CIO Role
Brownell has a point. Consider the following:
The net result in many enterprises is an unofficial demotion of the CIO--a dumbing down of the job.