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What is a CIO?

The Chief Information Officer, known as the CIO, holds the top technical position within a given organization.

This person makes crucial business decisions concerning the organization’s technological strategy, and interfaces with other C-level executives in order to communicate needs, process and progress.

Specific job responsibilities include:

  • Streamlining platforms, systems and processes
  • Solving problems with existing technologies
  • Advancing client relationships and organizational growth via technology
  • Interdepartmental communication
  • Updating and automating processes
  • Managing assorted IT projects
  • Budgeting for and purchasing technological devices

What combination of education, skills and experience are necessary for this role?

Education: CIOs often possess bachelor’s degrees in computer science, software engineering or information systems. Preferred candidates may hold a Masters of Business Administration (MBA).

Skills that the CIO role requires include:

  • Advanced technical training
  • Knowledge of information risk management
  • Knowledge of budgeting
  • Project management know-how
  • Familiarity with agile processes
  • Effective recruiting skills
  • Business savvy

Experience: Hiring managers usually prefer at a minimum of 5 years of experience in an IT department prior to consideration for the CIO role. Candidates with business acumen will stand out in the hiring process.

 Who does this person typically report to?

Among global CIOs, 46% report to the CEO, 28% report to the CFO, 11% report to the COO and 10% report to the board. A small handful (6%) report to someone else entirely, Deloitte noted in a 2018 publication.

What is the history of the CIO role?

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) role emerged in the 1980s. During this era, the CIO was considered a “technology developer,” and the role was associated with facilities functions, as it involved implementing and maintaining systems. By the early 1990’s, the role began to include higher-level responsibilities.

Aligning technological operations with business needs gradually became a core component of the position. Towards the 2000’s, esteem for the CIO rose further, and his or her insights became indispensable to business growth. More operationally focused responsibilities were shifted down to the CTO.

As the following decade unfolded (the 2010’s), the role grew to demand integration and configuration of external IT resources and existing resources. Relationship orchestration and solutions integration made up the bulk of a CIO’s responsibilities.

For in-depth information about the history of the CIO role, download this report from Deloitte.

What does the future of the CIO role look like?

  • Less technically/operationally focused
  • More focused on innovation
  • More focused on building high-performing teams
  • May need to rearrange and/or reskill the IT department to accommodate greater security automation and DevSecOps.
  • More focused on driving change and delivering results

How does the CIO role shape corporate culture?

In addition to the responsibilities listed above, a newly noticed facet of the CIO role is his or her bearing on company culture. By 2021, CIOs will assume as much responsibility for the organization’s culture as Chief HR Officers.

Forty-six percent of CIOs report that organizational culture represents the most significant impediment in driving technological change. Long-time employees of organizations are often resistant to using technologies that are unfamiliar. This is not unreasonable, but it is inconvenient if you are the CIO, who’s trying to implement new digital initiatives. Therefore, a lot of CIOs have realized that they need to introduce concepts and roll out programs to obtain employee buy-in when it comes to change.

What challenges does the CIO typically face?

  • Shifting out of an operational role and into a business leadership role
  • Scaling innovative processes and ideas
  • Choosing whether to defend use of older tech or to embrace new technologies
  • Coping with aging infrastructure
  • Overseeing cyber security while also ensuring end-user functionality

Who typically reports to the CIO?

This varies based on the size and priorities of the company, but direct reports are usually responsible for IT infrastructure. Teams reporting to the CIO often include applications development, software procurement and maintenance, and help desk services, among others.

The role of a CIO at a startup:

A startup CIO must be able to handle rapid growth, contending with known unknowns and unknown unknowns. “You need to get in the habit of thinking a few steps ahead to anticipate problems.” The role of a CIO within a startup represents a unique opportunity to exercise creativity, to exhibit leadership, and to highlight intellectual sagacity when it comes to problem solving.

Notable quotes about the CIO role:

“Today, the CIO is focused on improving the development, use and management of internal information and applications, all, of which, are digital” -Cyber security evangelist, Grant A.

“The CIO role is one of the most interesting roles in today’s cyber landscape. Providing a balance between the business and security is huge task. In some verticals, the business is considered more important than security. Here lies the challenge.” -Cyber security evangelist, Mark O.

“Hackers are like parking tickets; they show up by surprise and take all your money. The CIO provides you with free and secure parking.” -Cyber security evangelist, Edwin D.