Chief information officer
Chief information officer (CIO), chief digital information officer (CDIO) or information technology (IT) director, is a job title commonly given to the most senior executive in an enterprise responsible for the information technology and computer systems that support enterprise goals. Generally, the CIO reports to the chief executive officer, chief operating officer or chief financial officer. In military organizations, they report to the commanding officer. The Chief Information Officer role was first defined in 1981 by William R. Synnott, former Senior Vice President of the Bank of Boston, and William H. Gruber, former professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
The need for CIOs
CIOs or CDIOs form a key part of any business that utilizes technology and data. In recent times, it has been identified that an understanding of just business or just IT is not sufficient. CIOs are needed for the management of IT resources as well as the “planning of ICT including policy and practice development, planning, budgeting, resourcing and training”. In addition to this, CIOs are becoming increasingly important in calculating how to increase profits via the use of ICT frameworks, as well as the vital role of reducing expenditure and limiting damage by setting up controls and planning for possible disasters. Computer Weekly magazine highlights that “53% of IT leaders report a shortage of people with high-level personal skills” in the workplace. In this way, CIOs are needed to decrease the gulf between roles carried out by both IT professionals and non-IT professionals in businesses in order to set up effective and working relationships.
Roles and responsibilities
The Chief Information Officer of an organization is responsible for a number of roles. First and most importantly, the CIO must fulfill the role of business leader. As a CIO must make executive decisions regarding things such as the purchase of IT equipment from suppliers or the creation of new systems, they are therefore responsible for leading and directing the workforce of their specific organization. In addition, the CIO is ‘required to have strong organizational skills’. This is particularly relevant for a Chief Information Officer of an organization who must balance roles in order to gain a competitive advantage and keep the best interests of the organization’s employees. CIOs also have the responsibility of recruiting, so it is important that they take on the best employees to complete the jobs the company needs fulfilling.
In addition, CIOs are directly required to map out both the ICT strategy and ICT policy of an organization. The ICT strategy covers future proofing, procurement, and the external and internal standards laid out by an organization. Similarly, the CIO must write up the ICT policy, detailing how ICT is utilized and applied. Both are needed for the protection of the organization in the short and long term and the process of strategizing for the future. Paul Burfitt, former CIO of AstraZeneca, also outlines the CIO’s role of IT governance, which he refers to as the “clarifying” of “accountability and the role of committees”.
As the CIO has a large number of responsibilities such as provision of finance, recruitment of professionals and development of policy and strategy, the risks are consequently vast. The CIO of U.S company Target was forced into resignation in 2014 after the theft of 40 million credit card details and 70 million customer details by hackers. CIOs carry out a large number of roles and therefore the chance of failure is very high. In this way, any CIO must be knowledgeable about the industry so they can adapt and reduce the chance of error.
Information technology and its systems have become so important that the CIO has come to be viewed in many organizations as a key contributor in formulating strategic goals for an organization. The prominence of the CIO position has greatly risen as information, and the information technology that drives it, has become an increasingly important part of the modern organization. Many CIOs are adding additional c-level titles to reflect the growing importance of technology in successfully running companies; this trend is referred to as the CIO-plus. The CIO may be a member of the executive committee of an organization, and/or may often be required to engage at board level depending on the nature of the organization and its operating structure and governance environment. No specific qualifications are intrinsic to the CIO position, though the typical candidate may have expertise in a number of technological fields - computer science, software engineering, or information systems. Many candidates have Master of Business Administration or Master of Science in Management degrees. More recently, CIOs' leadership capabilities, business acumen and strategic perspectives have taken precedence over technical skills. It is now quite common for CIOs to be appointed from the business side of the organization, especially if they have project management skills.
In 2012, Gartner Executive Programs conducted a global CIO survey and received responses from 2,053 CIOs from 41 countries and 36 industries. Gartner reported that survey results indicated that the top ten technology priorities for CIOs for 2013 were analytics and business intelligence, mobile technologies, cloud computing, collaboration technologies, legacy modernization, IT management, customer relationship management, virtualization, security, and enterprise resource planning.
Typically, a CIO is involved with driving the analysis and re-engineering of existing business processes, identifying and developing the capability to use new tools, reshaping the enterprise's physical infrastructure and network access, and with identifying and exploiting the enterprise's knowledge resources. Many CIOs head the enterprise's efforts to integrate the Internet into both its long-term strategy and its immediate business plans. CIOs are often tasked with either driving or heading up crucial IT projects that are essential to the strategic and operational objectives of an organization. A good example of this would be the implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, which typically has wide-ranging implications for most organizations.
Another way that the CIO role is changing is an increased focus on service management. As SaaS, IaaS, BPO and other more flexible value delivery techniques are brought into organizations the CIO usually functions as a 3rd party manager for the organization. In essence, 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.
Distinction between CIO, CDO and CTO
The roles of Chief Information Officer, Chief Digital Officer and Chief Technology Officer are commonly blurred. Tom Silver, the North American senior vice president for Dice, states that CTOs are concerned with technology itself, whereas CIOs are much more concerned with its applications in the business and how this can be managed.
More specifically, CIOs manage a business’s IT systems and functions, creates and delivers strategies and policies, and places great emphasis on internal customers. In contrast to this, CTOs place emphasis on the external customers to the organization and focus on how different technology can make the company more profitable.
The traditional definition of CTOs focused on using technology as an external competitive advantage now includes CDOs who use the power of modern technologies, online design and big data to digitalise a business.
- Chief technology officer
- Chief digital officer
- Chief executive officer
- Chief financial officer
- Chief operating officer
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