One of his points is that it is important to understand what motivates a CIO, since this decides how an organisation manages its IT matters. Magnusson talks about three different types of CIOs: the professional man, the marginal man and the corporate man.

Johan Magnusson’s doctoral thesis Unpackaging IT Governance: A Study of Chief Information Officers in Large, Swedish Organizations explores CIOs at 26 large Swedish companies, including their personal motivations and their views of IT governance. The study focuses on how CIOs make decisions, how they carry out the task of IT governance and how IT is positioned in the respective organisations.

Magnusson suggests that CIOs can be sorted into three broad categories – the professional man, the marginal man and the corporate man. A CIO who belongs to the first category, the professional man, strongly indentifies with the IT staff and their technical expertise and tends to ‘protect’ this group from the demands and expectations imposed on the rest of the organisation. The loyalty of a CIO in the marginal man category is more complex. This professional finds it problematic to be loyal to both the IT department and his or her company’s top management team, and therefore tends to act as an impartial observer and tries to avoid direct confrontation. CIOs in the corporate man category feel strongly linked to the company’s top management team and are loyal to the organisation as a whole rather than to the IT department. Instead of thinking of their role as ‘being responsible for making the IT function operate as smoothly as possible,’ these professionals focus on judging what is best for the entire organisation.

– Most interviewed CIOs belong or strive to belong to the corporate man category. They mainly identify with the company’s top management team, either because they are in fact already part of this group or because they aim at becoming a member. This is usually a good thing, although it may sometimes result in a collision with other governance mechanisms. There is for example a risk that a CIO distances him/herself from the IT department and starts avoiding decisions and tasks that are part of a CIO’s traditional job description but that he or she has come to perceive as too operative in nature. There is also a risk that the CIO’s increased business focus leads to direct control and therefore negligence of established practices, or he or she may also abdicate his or her leadership of the IT department, leaving this group without a leader,’ says Magnusson.

Although the division of CIOs into three broad categories may seem overly simplistic, Magnusson says it helps us understand the link between CIOs’ motivations and IT governance.

– My research has also shown that CIOs have a strong need to discuss and reflect over their role, not least in the midst of today’s result-oriented environment where most businesses fall into the trap of viewing IT as a mere cost in their quest for formalisation.’

The thesis was presented on 12 March 2010.

Author: Johan Magnusson.

Title: Unpackaging IT Governance: A Study of Chief Information Officers in Large, Swedish Organizations.

Department: Department of Business Administration, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg Link to thesis:

For more information, please contact: Johan Magnusson, tel +46 (0)31 786 27 67, +46 (0)733 10 03 27, A high-resolution photo of Johan Magnusson is available here