At Maple Leaf Foods, a $5 billion consumer packaged-goods company, IT doesn't just respond to business decisions, it participates in the planning that leads to those decisions. For starters, CIO Jeff Hutchinson sits on the executive committee, and some of his IT leaders sit on business unit committees. In addition, non-IT managers report to the CIO, and several IT staffers report to those managers. The IT group influences what the company does and doesn't do-which plants to close or expand, which acquisitions to make, which customers to cultivate-and a major part of Hutchinson's bonus depends on meeting corporate profit goals.

Being the strategic partner that many CIOs say they want to be means so much more than just having an academic understanding of your company or industry, Hutchinson says. "Be part of the business. Be part of the decisions," he says. "That's different."

This cross-pollinated, matrixed and hybrid business-IT world, however, is fantasy for most CIOs, according to our annual State of the CIO survey.

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