In my 35+ years of being a corporate change agent, and now at the helm of my own consultancy, I have worked with all levels of the C-suite, and I have to say the CIO role is by far the most difficult. There are numerous reasons for this, not the least of which is an outdated model of the C-suite itself.

The fact is that most companies still view IT and the CIO role through the narrow lens of providing technology-based services; they have not broadened that view to take into account the stunning changes wrought by digital technology. IT is no longer simply responsible for building, operating, and maintaining infrastructure; it’s responsible for data governance, driving growth through data analytics, cyber security, connectivity and integration. However, since most organizations are peering through the old lens of IT-as-service-provider, they are blind to IT as a revenue-producer. The irony here is that Sales, Marketing, R&D, Finance, and HR—those typically considered revenue-producing—are only able to do what they do because of IT and IT’s ability to stay ahead of the curve.

According to a recent IBM study of 4,100 C-suite executives, only 42% of CIOs were involved in strategy, as opposed to 72% for CFOs and 63% for CMOs. This is puzzling. Since IT touches everything, the CIO has an enterprise-wide vision that would be invaluable in integrating an enterprise-wide strategy. Luckily, the IBM study suggests that this is turning around—the CIO is soon going to be considered one of the C-suite “triumvirate,”: CEO, CIO, CMO.

Another reason the CIO role is more difficult than most is that it bears sole responsibility for ensuring business continuity through critical service level agreements that define uptime, availability and redundancy. At the rate of change today—BYOD and big data come to mind, besides the emphasis on ever-changing end-user demands and satisfaction—it’s a lot to juggle at once. Not to put too fine a point on it, the CIO is answerable in a very tangible way to every executive in the C-Suite as well as the end users, both internal and external.

Mary Shacklett, former CIO of FSI International and current president of Transworld Data says this about the role of the CIO today, “. . . virtually every aspect of the business these days is run on systems. When systems fail, even if the wrongdoing originates in business operations, the CIO is still a ‘best bet’ lightening rod to attract the blame.” Here Ms. Shacklett is responding to the resignation of Target’s CIO after the data breach last fall. To my mind, blaming the CIO underscores the notion that IT is still perceived mainly as the supplier of technology and that with the right technology, incidents like this would not happen. But this is patently not true. It cannot be the CIO’s job to absorb all the operational risk.

It is past time to realize that risk management is critical to your operations and adequate overhead should be provided for it. Preventative measures such as performing regular maintenance and security checks is not the place to economize; economies can be made by killing unnecessary demand and scrapping any projects that have either outlived their usefulness or whose value is questionable or negligible. Give IT the budget it requires to undertake the discipline, training, and governance necessary to do the job right. Data and operational security should always take precedence over functionality improvements if you are faced with budgetary constraints.

The U.S. economy for the past few years has been unkind to IT, and now that there seems to be a slight improvement, organizations will be making some overdue upgrades to their hardware, servers, and storage systems. IT will be at the forefront of these efforts as well as efforts to move to the cloud, coordinate the use of employee mobile devices, mine data, and maintain security. I read somewhere that the CIO is not unlike a conductor, orchestrating separate sections into a synchronized whole. I think that’s about right.

Give me your thoughts on how you see your CIO role. How are you/they addressing these challenges? Does the world look different from where you sit? What would you do if you were CIO or CISO?