CIOs support social tools and technologies, but changing dynamics are making it a challenge for this function to exert leadership in this area. This is the fourth installment of our series on social business in the C-suite.

A convergence of research data, analyst forecasts and commentary from authorities on social enterprise like Dion Hinchcliffe together may paint a worrisome picture when it comes to the future of CIOs and social business.

In previous installments, we’ve highlighted the fact that CFOs are more reluctant to support social business than their C-suite colleagues. We’ve also discussed how CMOs with a high level of enthusiasm are building clout in the C-suite through their use of social media and data.

But the CIO’s story with social media is quite different — and more complicated.

Results from a new survey, soon to be published in the update of the 2012 MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Global Executive Social Business Report Social Business: What are Companies Really Doing? show that the percent of CIOs who say that social is important to their business more than doubled to 38%, up from 14% in 2012. According to a survey of 200 CIOs and other IT managers released in February of 2013 by the business consulting firm Protiviti, the number one area where respondents said they want to improve their knowledge was regarding security, specifically surrounding social media.

Despite such positive trends, barriers exist that may make it harder for CIOs to expand — or even maintain — leadership when it comes to social media in their enterprise. These include:

  • A lack of experience in social engagement. According to a survey by the document collaboration firm Harmon.ie that measured the most social CIOs in the Fortune 250, the authors reported that “the most striking finding of our study is that only 10% of the Fortune 250 CIOs are themselves social.”
  • Budget constraints. IT budgets have been tight for several years.
  • A lack of history of leading their organization in strategic uses of information technology.
  • A recent trend in which CMOs are obtaining more IT-related projects and even building new IT capabilities. This is attributed to marketers’ increased engagement in analytics and the consumerization of IT, resulting in a blurring of the roles and responsibilities between the CMO and CIO. According to a February 26 blog post by The Dachis Group’s Dion Hinchcliffe, “A new reality between the CMO and the CIO” in recent months he encountered “a growing number of people with the title CIO of marketing.”

The bottom line for CIOs and social is that the picture is still being drawn. It’s not just social business, but big data, digitization, consumerization of IT and the increase of marketers’ strategic use of digital data tools that are changing the power structure and dynamics in the C-suite and putting in flux responsibilities for technology.

Where is this leading? One possibility is that the job of the IT function or the CIO position, in particular, may evolve into different roles with different foci. INSEAD surveyed 188 CIOs from seven European countries for its 2012 IT Enabled Leadership Report and identified three types of “IT-enabled leaders:” technology-driven; business process-driven; and client-driven. In our own report last year, we called out what we saw as two different types: CIOs that “keep the lights on” vs. CIO who act as strategists. And Dion Hinchcliffe, in his blog cited above, makes a prediction that the primary long-term function for IT in the future will be as the “steward of infrastructure and security.”

Another possibility is more collaboration between the CIO and CMO. Perhaps if CIOS are to remain players in social media, it may be time for them to, well, get more social with their CMO colleagues.