The Evolving Role of the CIO

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The Evolving Role of the CIO

A chief information officer (CIO) is a member of an executive team responsible for acquiring, implementing, and operating a business’s information technology systems and services. Some library science degree holders choose this dynamic career for its ever-changing nature and the ability it affords them to be on the cutting-edge of information curation.

Learn how the role of the CIO continues to evolve as new technology emerges and corporate priorities change.

CIOs Now Focus on Maintenance Rather Than Procurement

A CIO works with a variety of tools – from traditional paper to mobile and computing technologies.

When the role of CIO originated, these professionals often needed to build their businesses’ information technology systems from the ground up. Procurement was an essential and significant part of the job. However, as Thomas H. Davenport explains in Fortune, maintenance has now taken focus away from attainment of new technological solutions. He suggests that it is not uncommon for 80 percent of information technology budgets to address the maintenance of existing programs, servers, and networks. With such a large percentage of the budget already allocated, the modern CIO often has little left to explore, obtain, and train staff in the use of new technology.

This shift in focus may explain why only 25.3 percent of CIOs view themselves as innovation officers, according to International Data Corp. research released in 2016. However, 40.9 percent of business executives see their CIOs as innovation officers. This finding reveals the pressure on CIOs to drive innovation within their organizations, even under tight budgetary constraints.

CIOs Align Information Technology with Business Goals

When the CIO first entered the executive suite in the mid-1970s, the role typically focused on incorporating technology into the corporate world, Davenport notes in Fortune. Nearly 40 years later, both the need for technology and the role of the CIO have changed substantially. Many technology-focused executives strive to become chief technology officers (CTOs), while CIOs increasingly manage information technology (IT).

For most CIOs, managing a company’s IT initiatives requires a strong business background. As executives, CIOs take responsibility for ensuring that IT objectives closely align with larger business goals. Though the specifics of these responsibilities largely depend on the nature of the company, most CIOs must ensure that the business’s information remains secure, that information and data storage enhances employees’ abilities to perform their roles, and that employees follow secure practices when using technology. This requires that CIOs grasp current leadership and management strategies to ensure they are leading their teams properly. Not managing employees could lead to problems, as cybersecurity breaches and inefficient data work may lead to expensive issues that compromise overarching business goals.

CIOs Increasingly Drive Corporate Culture

For many CIOs, leadership increasingly comes in the form of establishing and driving corporate culture. As David Chou explains in CIO, as IT and technology change at an ever-increasing pace, these professionals must educate fellow executives and employees about the importance of adopting new protocols, following trends, and adapting to rapid transformations.

As such, CIOs often emphasize the importance of learning and incorporate continual education into the corporate culture. By weaving these concepts into a company’s mission and aligning their IT vision with the corporate culture, CIOs have the potential to ensure that employees and managers alike strive to learn, adapt, and build resilience.

In order to drive corporate culture effectively, Chou notes, today’s CIO must be socially savvy to an increasingly high degree. Along with driving corporate culture and building trust, creating strong relationships among executives and managers is also paramount for CIOs who want to increase their influence and retain their seat in the C-suite.

CIOs Lead Digital Transformations

Many CIOs are charged with leading a company’s digital transformation. In some cases, this translates to CIOs taking on roles as data scientists, one of the fastest growing positions in every industry, Sarah K. White writes in CIO. In many ways, a data scientist role is ideally suited to CIOs, as it requires executives to maintain, collect, and organize existing data. Few executives in this role focus on data analysis. Instead, White explains, most prioritize developing best practices for organization and maintenance.

White notes that in many cases, CIOs take responsibility for determining which types of data to collect in the first place. While some companies may gather and store as much as possible, today’s CIO must understand the value of big data, collecting and organizing only what is necessary to enact a comprehensive strategy.

Like other evolving roles of today’s CIO, this task typically requires these professionals to align their goals with greater business objectives. Naturally, CIOs are likely to have greater success developing and honing effective strategies for data collection and other digital aspects if they augment the company’s existing cultural, development, and sales goals.

Aspiring executives should note that not all of the important tasks of digital transformation and data science fall to the CIO. Companies with a wider range of specialized executive roles often assign key digital tasks to the chief digital officer, chief analytics officer, or chief data scientist, especially those that involve a greater emphasis on data analysis and interpretation.

The Role of the CIO Has Become Increasingly Fractured

While the role that information technology plays in the modern business environment is growing, others who hold new technology positions have taken over many of the responsibilities originally managed by the CIO, Davenport explains, especially in large organizations.

In addition to becoming a CIO, graduates with technology degrees and/or a Master of Management in Library and Information Science may decide to focus on digitizing company processes and relationships as a chief digital officer. Where once CIOs dealt with analytics and big data, chief analytics officers and chief data scientists now manage these responsibilities.

As the role of the CIO changes, professionals must adapt or risk falling behind. However, management skills are always needed and valued no matter an individual’s role in an organization. By pursuing an MMLIS degree through a business school, students can prepare for the responsibilities and challenges facing CIOs in their careers today. Visit the USC Marshall School of Business to learn more about this library science degree program.

Recommended Reading:


Why No One Wants to be a Chief Information Officer Anymore – Fortune

CIO also means Chief Influence Officer – CIO from IDG

How to Define the Evolving Role of Data Scientist – CIO from IDG

New Role of the CIO: Innovator in an Ever-Evolving Business World – WIred

The CIO of the Future – Workday

The Changing Face of the Modern CIO – MEMSQL Blog

New CIO Role: IoT Driven Product Designer – Leading Edge Design Group

Article – IDC Analyze the Future