Today’s CIOs are running the gauntlet.

Budgets are tight and IT investments are in the spotlight like never before. Stakeholders are clamoring for improved financial transparency and more effective management. Even turf wars are heating up; new research from Accenture found that 43 percent of the senior finance executives polled said they also now manage IT projects.

How can CIOs successfully navigate this minefield? What will it take for them to become more integrated into executive suite functions?

The problem as I see it, too often boils down to unproven leadership. Simply put, it’s time for CIOs to step up. They need to transform their IT organizations into services-oriented organizations. They need to assume accountability. And, they need to start running “IT like a business.”

A recent article at ITWorldCanada deep dives into these issues, examining several distinctive elements of what is shaping up to be a significant CIO leadership gap.

What’s driving this breach? As author Vawn Himmelsbach astutely points out, the movement toward outsourcing and the Cloud means the CIO’s contribution is becoming less about the mechanics of IT and more about the strategy behind it. Or, in other words, IT success today requires an increased emphasis on accountability, metrics, collaboration and long-term strategic thinking – none of which have been at the top of the traditional CIO agenda.

Jories Timmers, IT director and CIO of Powerex, sums it up in the article. Many CIOs “grew up as techies and never got trained in soft skills,” he says. As a result, CIOs aren’t typically dexterous with regard to business performance, communication, office politics and the like.

And that’s precisely why CIOs now need to adopt a new approach -- and a new set of tools.

In order for CIOs to effectively run IT like a business, they need to automate IT cost and financial management within a business context. For example, by unifying financial metrics (GL, payroll, etc.) with key utilization metrics (server usage, ticketing, etc.), CIOs will find themselves in a position to holistically manage the cost of their IT infrastructure and analyze various cost reduction projects to maximize business ROI. Just as a modern manufacturing enterprise could never imagine running its business without an ERP system, today’s CIOs need to implement new performance metrics that provide the cost transparency and accountability that the C-suite demands. Once that’s accomplished, they’ll be on their way to closing the leadership gap.