The role of today’s Chief Information Officer is one of technical expert, change agent, risk mitigator and influencer all within the confines of fiscal restraint and accountability.
Gone are the days of simply heading the IT shop and signing off on network configurations and server acquisitions. The role, if done effectively, has now transitioned to one of tremendous value to the business as a technology enabler, closely aligned with the needs, goals and mandates of organizational business lines.
In the past, the brightest technology wizards were elevated to the post of CIO based primarily on their knowledge of hardware, computers, programming and networks. They were rarely exposed to the business activities of the organization, and essentially force fed technology upon the business community. Business lines had to adjust and adapt to the technological offering, changing their processes and negatively impacting on their capability and capacity to conduct their key activities. That paradigm has now shifted to where business lines are delivering their requirements to IT, with the CIO providing an organizational infrastructure and service offerings which support and enable organizational mandates.
This is uncharted territory to the “old school” CIO’s. They are suddenly expected to contribute to discussions around strategic corporate initiatives. To reassure stakeholders that information and data are held securely. That system and database configurations are reliable and resistant to vulnerabilities. That corporate risk is effectively mitigated through proactive protocols involving key information assets. They are accountable to shareholders, users, clients, governments and their communities. No more can they sit atop the organization in a silo, issuing edicts on the user community about which system they will now use or which toolset will be on boarded. They are at the service of their constituents.
It is a unique skillset for the effective CIO. For this very reason, organizations are putting less weight on technical acumen, and more weight on the business and service delivery background of potential candidates. With data breaches significantly impacting consumer, community and shareholder confidence (Target, Apple, Home Depot, HRSDC, etc.) many organizations are recognizing the need for a CIO whose skillset is multi-faceted, beyond being simply a technological guru. Of course, there is still a heavy technical element; it’s simply that the balance of power has shifted. Business and organizational information needs now lead the technology discussion.
Effective CIO’s know how to leverage innovation and blend it with process improvements in order to achieve positive business and financial results. They are innovators, building personal influence through their adeptness in accurately forecasting and anticipating changes to the business landscape. The top CIO’s are recognized for their abilities to guide transition as opposed to simply reacting to it.
When considering the “I” in “CIO”, there has always been a requirement for informational oversight. Information Management has crept on to the scene, dragging Open Data and Open Government to the dance. Interject cloud and mobile computing, hacking, data breaches, stringent legislative requirements and e-Discovery. Many balls to juggle, many stakeholders to appease. Good CIO’s lead organizational evolution in a manner that eliminates stakeholder revolution.
When the CIO role was created in days gone by, the focus was solely technology. The title never changed, but the role certainly has.