An new study by London-based Deloitte and the Cranfield School of Management validates what CIOs have known all along: "You're out of the loop, and when we want your opinion we'll tell you what it is."

CIOs are caught in a tough situation right now. Technology is emerging at a lightening pace and many business owners think early adoption is the key to getting a leg up on the competition. CIOs are charged with deploying everything from virtualization green IT solutions despite shrinking budgets and downsized staff. Unfortunately, when something goes wrong, the ax falls on the neck of the person highest up the food chain -- the CIO.

ZDnet's Tom Espiner says, "CIOs are often seen as 'glorified IT directors,' looking after the day-to-day running of IT systems, instead of being used to align IT with business aims." He notes that, because the nature of a CIOs job changes with with the needs of the company, his input and performance should be assessed accordingly.

"Once a CIO is in their role, the nature of their responsibilities is likely to be transitory, the study found. Depending on how IT is viewed and used in the business, the role could start with the CIO as an 'evangelist', selling the idea that information can be used to add business value. The role could then shift to that of an 'innovator' CIO, who proposes new products and services, and finally to a 'facilitator' CIO, who expands the business use of technology across each department of the firm," says Espiner.

The takeaway message from the study is that everyone seems confused by what the role of a CIO should be, often including the CIOs themselves. If a business feels the need to bring in a CIO to remain competitive or help steer the company down the correct technology path, then at hiring time it's helpful to have a clear outline of expectations from everyone at the negotiating table.