The changing role of the CIO

Historically, the title, CIO, was sexy name for a head technician. However, the role has evolved considerably. In this article we highlight some of the key changes that have occurred.

The role of the Chief Information Officer, CIO, and in many cases for Small and Medium Enterprises, the Information Systems Manager is changing. Traditionally, that position was considered operational – to implement the decisions and strategies adopted by other in the organisation. The head of that unit would also be subordinate to a member of the executive or senior management, such as the Chief Operations Officer, Director of Facilities, or even the Office Manager, and typically, the greatest concern was to limit the spend by that team.

However, over the past several years, technology has become increasingly crucial to organisations to help them not only improve efficiency and effectiveness, but also ultimately, their overall viability in an increasingly competitive world. As a result, the projection of  leading IT advisor, Gartner, almost four years ago, has come to pass: “every company is a technology company”, regardless of the function, or the products or services it provides. Accordingly, this paradigm shift has been the impetus for the changing role of the CIO (and other similar positions) in organisations.

The CIO now involved in corporate strategy

Unlike before, CIOs are now being invited to sit at the executive table to contribute to corporate strategy. Their participation is not limited to discussing the technology needs to implement a particular tactic or activity. Now they are involved in the brainstorming that shapes the organisation’s overarching strategic direction, to reflect that technology is no longer operational to strategic and tactical considerations in today’s business culture.

Less of a technical position, more of a management position

With the move to the boardroom, CIOs are no longer being required to proficient in executing ICT/technical activities. Increasingly, they are being required to draw on their business and management expertise – to manage people and projects, and to more intimately understand the health of the organisation of which they are a part. In other words, the role of the CIO has become the nexus of business needs and technical capabilities. Having said this, and in some organisations, the CIO may not possess extensive technical qualifications and experience, but instead come from a business/management background, which also emphasises the role they are now required to play.

Increased role in innovation and intelligence

Finally, and in light of the demands that are being made on today’s businesses – to be lean, more agile and more responsive to customers’ need – organisations are required to be more innovative not only to meet those demands, but also to remain competitive. Whilst all members of an executive team might be required to contribute to the those objectives, there tends to be greater expectations on the CIO. As the “confluence for business needs and technical capabilities” (Source: Computer Weekly), frequently, the CIO is expected to be a source of intelligence: digesting and sharing analytics, based on the data the organisation collects. The information is critical to inform decision-making, and as the individual who tends to manage those sources, the CIO is becoming a key player in an organisation’s executive/management team.


Image credit:  ING Group (flickr)


1 Comment

  • Spot on…. In fact, business organisations today who still have a senior-most IT employee reporting to another departmental executive just don’t seem to have stepped into the new world.

    Unfortunately at board level, many boardrooms I have witnessed lately are often not in the habit of inviting IT executives to make presentations. A finance person or an operating officer could come in and make a presentation, but not an IT one.

    This is probably reflective of the rustiness of people who currently populate boardrooms.

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