Everyone knows what role in a company CEO stands for - but what about the CIO?
The CIO - or Chief Information Officer - carries out a key role within any organisation; taking a strategic lead on activities that increase productivity, competitiveness and overall value.
Originally, the role was responsible for directing the information systems and data processing functions of old. But today, CIOs have a new and evolved role - with a fresh set of skills required. And the role is still evolving, as the delivery mechanisms of modern enterprises continue to change and grow.
So, how do CIOs add organisational value to a competitive, tech-focused and efficient business?
The role in focus
Although Chief Information Officers are widely advertised for, there is no standard job description. The role sits at the executive level of the organisation and deals with its IT needs - but there may still be another IT director. In fact, many individuals in the role are now purposely distancing themselves from the day-to-day operation and instead focusing on strategic issues. Main activities and focuses will include:
- Implementing technology programmes that deliver business value - often by re-engineering the business.
- Carrying out strategic planning, primarily for objectives that relate to a business group.
- Ensuring that technology-related activities deliver outcomes that support wider business goals.
The role naturally has a strong productivity and value focus. By implementing technologies that help the organisation to optimise processes, cut out waste, operate in a lean and customer-responsive manner and better serve target groups, value is derived from the function, and the business becomes more competitive within its target market.
The focus on corporate goals is essential, and the role is a key part of any organisation's overall digital transformation. This might translate into programmes of work such as the implementation of new CRM systems, migration to cloud infrastructure or a HR self-service system that cuts costs and improves internal efficiencies.
Areas which will be a focus - and a challenge - for today's CIOs include big data analytics, collaboration platforms, cloud computing and mobile computing. Emerging topics that will be of increasing focus include the IoT - Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence.
Digital disruption enables senior roles to become less concerned with the daily operation of the IT function, instead shifting to topics such as data security, service analysis and market reach.
Other ways in which the CIO will deliver better competitiveness and productivity for the organisation include:
- Developing new, tech-led customer platforms
- Developing in-house IT capabilities and resources
- Negotiating with IT vendors and overseeing architecture development
- Managing key suppliers
- Overseeing corporate information risk management as a function, along with IT strategies, policies and standards.
CIOs also sit on the organisational leadership team and engage heavily with other senior directors in order to shape and grow the business.
Qualifications and experience
CIOs will typically have an advanced degree in IT, software engineering or computer science. They will also have substantial experience in a senior role - usually at least 5 years of experience at a management level. A high degree of business acumen is also essential, which is why CIOs are frequently promoted from internal business departments.
The digital transformation that is occurring across the business landscape also means that the role is likely to become increasingly in demand. This will offer opportunities and challenges alike for post holders to deliver meaningful, sustainable shareholder value and to influence the company's overall competitiveness and success through their work.