The Role of IT Executive Is Changing, But the Salary Isn't

    December 14, 2015

    By Dino Balafas

    In spite (or as a result) of flattening earnings among senior IT professionals, an evolving market has forced a total reconsideration of their role in the business.

    The changes digital technology has brought to our own daily lives is mirrored in its impact on the C-suite — the fundamental position of senior IT leaders to business has been changing rapidly. But you wouldn’t know if from looking at salary reports: their earnings have remained flat over the 2015 season, with only mild changes from 2014, despite the fact that they have become integrated into management in unprecedented ways.

    What’s the reasoning behind this? The jury’s still out, but aside from pure happenstance, these stagnant numbers reflect the fact that salary trends are struggling to keep up with larger market dynamics, and may indicate a resistance to those changes among businesses. But considering the augmentation of the role IT and data play in business, senior IT leaders are due for an inevitable heady moment, and should find themselves seated comfortably at the executive table.

    Dollars and Sense

    According to an annual TechTarget survey of senior, executive, and C-suite IT leaders (CIOs, CTOs, and CISOs), their median total compensation was $153,420 in 2015, a small 2.3% bump up from the $150,000 reported in 2014. Though total compensation rose for 61% of IT leaders this year, 64% received an increase in 2014, and roughly the same forecast is expected for 2016.

    If an IT leader manages a raise, they can expect a median addition of 3.4% to their salary, roughly the same as the 3% median reported last year. Of course, if they happen to live in a West Coast urban area (read: San Francisco and Silicon Valley) or in the Northeast, they will be get more generous returns for their services — but national salary trends still aren’t rising.

    And although these numbers are quite good, they fail to account for the increasingly strategic roles IT members play within a business — IT is no longer simply a cost center made up of “order takers” and troubleshooters.

    Anthony Peters, a TechTarget survey respondent and the Director of Information Technology at Burr Pilger Mayer, earned above his pay grade this year. He explains: “The IT strategy has to specifically align with the overall strategy of the business. The closer we impact that strategy, the more likely I am to get that bonus. This year, we did really well.”

    Charting Territory

    As a CIO article anticipated in late 2014, the role of CIOs and executive IT members are evolving because the perspective of IT has flipped. Businesses are now required to use a litany of digital tools to deliver complex services, and customers are demanding a greater diversity and reliability of options.

    Now, senior IT members must not only provision for adequate IT resources, they must take an active role in aligning them with top-level business strategy. IT growth is strongly tied to business success at large, and conversely, if IT fails and outages occur, a company’s reputation can be tarnished and consumer trust compromised. In this sense, IT members have become necessary stakeholders in business decisions.

    This is obviously a much more demanding role for IT leaders (and one that, intuitively, would see higher pay), and it also requires the complete retooling of a company’s IT infrastructure. More and more, IT leaders are turning to diagnostic software and algorithms to understand whether IT resources are being used with maximum efficiency, compile more effective solutions, and even predict future courses of action.

    We will continue to see the role of the IT executive grow in coming years, and if they provide companies with the massive upside expected, their salaries will follow suit.

    (Main image credit: Wikimedia)