Chief Information Officer Guide

Everything About Being A Modern CIO

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Steven Lerner

chief information officer

There are several IT leaders critical to a digital transformation, but it is the chief information officer (CIO) who finds the balance between achieving technological innovations and managing business expectations. From analytics to cloud computing and from mobility to machine learning, the CIO oversees all of these processes.

With the role of the CIO evolving, here’s a guide about the past, present, and future of this job title.

Chief Information Officer Job Description

What is a chief information officer? This is typically the senior corporate executive who oversees all aspects of information technology (IT) within the organization. They often have to oversee budgeting IT resources, planning implementations, and training.

Looking at recent job descriptions, enterprises expect a CIO to receive a college degree (at least a Bachelors’ Degree) in computer science. Depending on the company, incoming CIOs are also expected to have a working history in IT of at least 10 years (if not more years), including previous time in IT management.

History Of The CIO

Over the past few decades, the position of CIO has emerged as a critical and prominent role in the enterprise. Originally, the position had more to do with the technology than actual business components. The name of the role is attributed to William R. Synnott of the Bank of Boston in 1981.

The growth of the position can be tied to the rise of computer technology in the enterprise. As organizations began to integrate mainframe computers, it became necessary to have this position, but growth was slow at first. For example, one report found that there were fewer than 20 CIOs in higher education in 1984. Today, nearly 70% of higher education institutions have this position.

As enterprise technology evolved from mainframe computers to microprocessors and to networks, so did the position of CIO. From major IT purchases to overseeing processes, CIOs have been at the forefront of every major enterprise technology trend for the past few decades.

Today, in the age of digital transformation, CIOs are focused on bigger, strategic issues. They are now tasked with ensuring that the business is competitive and capitalizing on technology.

Chief Information Officer Roles

Times are changing, and the role of the CIO is expanding. There are new duties that CIOs are fulfilling in order for their enterprises to experience the true potential of digital transformation. Here are a few modern examples of CIO roles.

Agent Of Change

During digital transformation, CIOs turn into change agents by focusing on productivity, efficiency, and development. Technological change is never easy to come, and there is likely to be pushback and resistance from business users, and even employees in the IT department. In order to overcome any resistance, CIOs must allow change to flourish. With the use of good communication skills and by finding defined roles for everyone involved, technological change can be attained.

Digital Transformation Leader

It’s not enough for a CIO to simply promote digital transformation. Rather, this executive is commonly seen as the leader of all digital transformation activities. This includes leading on both the technological impact and the business impact of these changes. Even if the C-Suite spurns IT projects, the CIO must take the lead and find a way to make these changes happen.

Automation Champion

As we approach a new decade, there are still many companies that are reliant on manual-based processes that drain resources and weaken productivity. The CIO has to take a leading role in automating processes within the enterprise in order to enhance efficiency and productivity. Whether it is through creating custom scripts for automated tasks, or leveraging robotic process automation (RPA), the CIO has to champion these causes.

CIO Trends

Heading into 2020, what are some of the key trends that are impacting the responsibilities of the CIO? Here are some trends to watch for.

Aligning Business Objectives

Before any major IT project is started, a buy-in from everyone in the C-Suite is critical. This is another task for the CIO. Executive sponsorship is important for digital transformation because IT projects must reflect the current business strategy. Increasingly, CIOs are expected to align IT projects with business goals. This includes ensuring that KPIs and dashboards track corporate goals and achieve business ROI.

Providing A Superior User Experience

Digital transformation initiatives can’t just be about saving the company money. One of the main objectives should be to enhance the user experience (UX). The CIO plays a role in this process. There should be consideration for how new technologies will impact employees. That’s why CIOs should ensure that internal testing is sufficient before a new technology is rolled out across the enterprise. The same is true for outward facing technologies used by customers. In both cases, making users happy is a major trend.

Focusing On Security And Data

Thanks in part to recent developments, from new regulations to data breaches; enterprises are cognizant about security and privacy issues. Technology is as at the forefront of this trend, which means that IT will play a big role in this. CIOs will oversee this process: from ensuring that device data is properly managed and to establishing protocols in case of a breach. With data itself viewed as a valuable commodity, it is up to IT to protect that data and ensure that is accessible to business users.

Chief Information Officer Challenges

Of course, there some challenges that stand in the way of CIOs trying to do their jobs. Here are some of the major challenges to expect.

Lack Of Resources

Enterprises might say that they are prioritizing digital transformation. After all, companies have to adapt or die, and overall technology spending in the enterprise has increased. However, most of the funds are not going to new digital transformation projects. Most financial resources are dedicated to maintenance and supporting current systems. CIOs are often left with limited funds for digital transformation projects. Combine this with a questionable internal skillset for new technologies and outdated legacy systems, and CIOs are basically left without a paddle. Unless they are able to make the case to increase their budgets, CIOs have to make the most out of limited resources.

Generating Revenue

Although it used to be sufficient for CIOs to focus on lowering costs and increasing efficiencies, times have changed. CIOs are sometimes tasked with directly generating revenue from their projects, especially with customer-facing technologies. It might seem strange that CIOs need to prioritize projects that result in monetization, but this is the way that enterprises operate today. IT is being viewed as a profit generator by business executives. It is now common for CIOs to focus on generating a positive ROI for projects. In other words, CIOs must put business ahead of technology. For some IT leaders, this presents a new challenge.

More Complexities

The job of a CIO is more complex now than ever before. In addition to the previously mentioned challenges, there are structural complexities that obstruct progress. Decentralized technologies force CIOs and practitioners to constantly ensure that tools are up to date. Even in an age when businesses attempt to be more agile, there are still plenty of organizational silos (including in IT) that are troublesome. There are several new non-technology responsibilities that fall under the CIO that can prove to be difficult.

The Future Of The CIO

Despite the challenges, the future is bright for the chief information officer. As more enterprises embrace next-generation technologies, the CIO will be viewed as the true business leader within the company. Likewise, as the position of the CIO becomes more relevant to the overall success of the company, IT will be considered to be the most critical department in the enterprise.

In the future, as the number of CIO positions increase, software will also evolve and be seen as an enabler for the success of the CIO. This will be especially important as the role of the CIO evolves. The position will be less technology-focused and more business/strategic-focused in the future.

Speaking of digital transformation, what are the leading industries? Here’s our exclusive progress report about five impressive sectors in digital transformation.