Step off an elevator these days and the C-Suite appears to occupy the entire top floor.


You’ve got your CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, CLO, CCO, CDO. It seems there’s a new Chief title created every day. But there’s one C-Suite position, that of the CIO, that changes and evolves constantly – almost at an alarming rate.


The career trajectory of the CIO really appears to be pitched at an almost vertical angle; the CIO has gone from server room guardian/tech guru to big data mavin, marketing-savvy, security-conscious, strategy-guiding executive.


The term CIO came into being around 1981 when Dr. William Gruber, working with William R. Synnott, published their book, “Information Resource Management: Opportunities and Strategies for the 1980s” (Wiley, 1981). It was in this book that the term CIO premiered. Here, a CIO was described as a “senior executive responsible for establishing corporate information policy, standards, and management control over all corporate information resources.”


Almost 35 years later, various sources, including Investopedia and Wikipedia, list various CIO attributes and duties including:


“A company executive who is responsible for the management, implementation and usability of information and computer technologies.”


“The CIO will deal with matters such as creating a website that allows the company to reach more customers or integrating new inventory software to help better manage the use of inventory.”


“The CIO has a large number of responsibilities such as provision of finance, recruitment of professionals and development of policy and strategy.”


“The CIO has come to be viewed in many organizations as the key contributor in formulating strategic goals for an organization.”


“A CIO in the modern organization is required to possess business skills and the ability to relate to the organization as a whole, as opposed to being a technological expert with limited functional business expertise.”


“The CIO position is as much about anticipating trends in the market place with regard to technology as it is about ensuring that the business navigates these trends through expert guidance and proper strategic IT planning that is aligned to the corporate strategy of the organization.”


Wow – that’s a long way from making sure the servers are up and running.


In a post entitled “So What Does a CIO Do, Anyway?”, author Steve Robbins recaps:


The Four Duties of a CIO:


  • Saying “No” to technology that doesn’t have a business rationale
  • Linking technology to internal strategic capabilities
  • Linking technology to external strategic products and services
  • Forecasting how technology will change competition, and adapting the business so it continues to thrive


Chris Patrick, Global Lead for Egon Zehnder‘s CIO practice adds, “The demand for the CIO is to be much more of an influencer, a shaper, a business strategist, than it has ever been.” “Companies want someone who understands both the technology landscape and the business implications of technology.” Patrick adds that “finding the right CIO has become a challenge.”


Today’s CIOs have a lot on their plates — responsibilities that touch technology, marketing, strategy, security, inventory, productivity, and more. Maybe it’s time for “National CIO Day.” Flowers, cards, candy? Seems like they deserve it.

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