CIOs are moving beyond the data center and are gaining more influence in the boardroom when it comes to strategic business planning, according to a new study.

Chief information officers’ influence is growing as more companies recognize that technology, particularly tools associated with data analytics, social media and cloud services, is key to reaching and serving customers, according to a new CIO Insights study by IBM.

Take the lead in adopting business analytics to drive sales and improve customer relations. Embrace mobile and cloud services. Evangelize IT as a strategic asset.

"The transition that CIOs are making, and that they need to continue to make, is keeping the business challenges and business opportunities in mind," Linda Ban, director of the Global C-suite Study at IBM, told CruxialCIO. "They need to focus on the business problem at hand and then how technology can help solve that – not technology for technology's sake."

In the past, organizations used IT primarily to make financial, human resources and sales operations more efficient. All that has changed. Nearly two-thirds of CIOs surveyed by IBM intend to focus more on improving customer interactions with the business.

CIOs gain more power as organizations become more dependent on mobility, business analytics and the cloud.

In addition, CIOs are also applying more effort to sales and new business development and marketing and communications.

But the biggest shift in IT's role is in helping organizations get closer to the customer, a move that's being embraced by more than four-fifths of the CIOs surveyed. CIOs are moving out of the back office and into the front office, where marketing, sales and customer service managers work at finding, winning and retaining customers.

The majority of CIOs say they will buy new technologies and hire people with the right skills in mobile computing, collaboration via the cloud, social networking tools and business analytics, all of which is seen as important in delivering what the customer wants.

Organizations' recognition of the importance of mining their vast amounts of data for actionable intelligence has brought CIOs and chief marketing officers into partnerships that never existed in the past.

The job of CMO has changed from building ad campaigns for TV, radio and billboards to marketing on web sites and social media. The latter has generated reams of customer data that CMOs are expected to use in helping to develop business strategy. CMOs cannot contribute to that conversation without analytical tools provided by the CIO.

"Forming that relationship with the chief information officer can really bear some strong fruit," Ban said. "Many CIOs that we've spoken to have prioritized that relationship (with the CMO) or are focusing on how to make it better."

Besides customers, CIOs fully understand the growing importance of leveraging technology to bring better collaboration between employees, suppliers and partners, the study found. More than 80 percent of CIOs in outperforming enterprises plan to install social business tools to help employees and partners pool their brain power.

Just like customers, employees are becoming increasingly more dependent on mobile devices. More than half of the CIOs in successful organizations said employees are now equipped to do business anywhere on any device, the study found.

In summing up the changing role of the CIO, the study concluded that IT chiefs command more respect and possess more authority than ever before. In addition they are working more closely with C-suite colleagues.

The study is based on meetings with almost 4,200 top executives between February and June 2013. The subjects represented a wide range of public and private sector enterprises in more than 20 industries and 70 countries.