The challenge of CIOs everywhere is how to make technology a good "fit" with the business. When you think about it, technology is a relatively recent thing to businesses. If your business was particularly savvy, you might have been introduced to a "time-share" computer system in the 1970s. But these were quite large and very expensive, so most businesses didn't enter into office computing until the early 1980s with the invention of the "personal computer". In the last 30 years, computing has evolved rapidly, from individual desktop computers to desktops connected via a "LAN", to client-server intranet, then Internet ... and today, "Cloud" on desktops, laptops, and (increasingly) apps on tablets & smartphones.
To put that different terms: if you enter the workforce in your 20s, and leave in your 60s, that's 40 years. So technology is "younger" than a work "generation". Our students grew up with technology all around them; computing was always there. But most folks didn't even see a computer until well after their college years. It shouldn't be any wonder that so many people around us remark how technology is still "new". Compared to other business areas (accounting, finance, sales, ... which have been around forever) technology has only barely arrived.
Similarly, it shouldn't be a big surprise that CEOs (many of whom are in their 50s and 60s) often do not place a high value on the CIO role. CEOs just don't "get" why the CIO plays a key role in the business. According to recent Gartner survey of 220 CEOs across the world, business leaders expect spending on IT to rise, but without a corresponding rise in the importance of the role of the CIO within the organisation.
That's why the CIO has such a tough job. At the same time, you need to maintain the existing IT systems, look ahead to the "next new thing", and respond to new demands. The successful CIO also needs to balance the above with "politics" - building relationships, helping others understand how IT works with the organization to help advance the institutional goals. In other words, it's about staying relevant.
I'll leave you with this brief profile of a successful CIO: Trevor Didcock at easyJet, recently named #1 in the "CIO 100" list. Didcock stood out in amongst some leading CIOs for his ability to manage and direct change, his vision for improved business and technology processes and his close relationship with the CEO.