The role of the CIO will disappear within 10 years.
As information systems become a standard part of business processes, they will become so ingrained and automatic that organisations will no longer need a CIO.
Until that happens, organisations will still need a CIO, but in many companies, the role is ill-defined, confused and misunderstood.
More than half of CIOs polled said there was no clear definition of the role, rising to 71% among senior managers and 91% among analysts.
The study revealedthat many CEOs and executive leadership teams do not understand what is required for a CIO to be successful.
This is because there is no standard role for the information officer. IT is dependent on the needs of the organisation.
Cranfield's research identifies three different types of CIO, depending on how far they are along the route of integrating or embedding information systems in their business processes.
As organisations start to integrate information systems and business processes, most will need an "evangelist CIO" to bring order to legacy systems and processes.
Most UK companies are in this phase, but researchers say many have yet to recognise the strategic importance of information systems to the business.
The next phase requires an "innovator CIO" to use information and technology to create new products, services and business models and embed those capabilities into the organisation.
Finally, a "facilitator CIO" will be necessary to ensure every department and manager uses information and technology to the full, but very few UK companies have reached this stage.
The ultimate objective of the CIO is to ensure information and technology are so intimately bound to every aspect of the business that the need for a CIO diminishes.
As a business becomes more information-centric, CIOs will be able to move on to other senior management roles, says David Tansley, partner in Deloitte's consulting practice.
What IT directors think
Cranfield's threeCIO-type model will help information officers assess where key competence lies, says Jim Norton, senior policy advisor at the Institute of Directors (IoD).
"Asking : am I an evangelist, innovator or facilitatorcan help CIOs guide their own career and choose the organisations where they are best able to make a contribution," he says.
Although some CIOs could evolve with the business, Norton believes most organisations will need a different type of CIO, depending on its stage of development.
"These are three very different skill sets and I suspect the vast generality of CIOs will specialise in one of those roles and find it quite hard to be credible in the others," says Norton.
The three-phase model has a lot of currency, says Denise Plumpton, director of information at the Highways Agency.
"CIOs need to recognise where the business is and adapt their role to that particular phase, while at the same time looking ahead to the next phase.
"The CIO has to be a two-headed monster with one head dealing with the phase the business is in today and the other head looking at where the business is going to move next," says Plumpton.