Chief Information Officer (CIO)

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Definition of the CIO Role

Who is a Chief Information Officer or CIO?
Chief Information Officer (CIO) is the title given to the head of the information technology department or function in an organization. The "C" or "chief" in the role name is added to reflect equivalence in influence and seniority with the other "C-Suite" roles such as CEO (Chief Executive Officer), COO (Chief Operating Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) , and CPO (Chief Procurement Officer). As head of the IT Function a CIO manages the complete life-cycle of Information Technology - identify, select, build, deploy, monitor, and fix the IT asset.[1]

CIO Responsibilities

What does a Chief Information Officer or CIO do?

  • Create business value through technology [2]
  • Strategic planning of business growth objectives
  • Ensure tech systems and procedures lead to outcomes in line with business goals
  • Oversee the development of customer service platforms
  • Manage IT and development team personnel
  • Approve vendor negotiations and IT architecture
  • Information risk management (IRM)
  • Establish IT policies, strategies, and standards
  • Develop and approve technology futures and budgets [3]
  • Develop goals and strategies to ensure the IT department runs smoothly and effectively
  • Direct and establish IT-related projects
  • Monitor changes in the technology sector to discover ways the company can improve and develop
  • Supervise the networks and computer systems in the company to ensure optimal performance
  • Plan and direct the implementation of new IT systems
  • Provide leadership to IT specialists and other staff within the company
  • Create and adapt technological platforms to improve the client experience
  • Troubleshoot data-related issues and establish regular maintenance

History of the CIO Role

Origin of the CIO Role
The term CIO came into existence in America in the late 1980s, early 1990s with only 10 per cent of the 4000 IT departments listed in MIS magazine’s database in mid-1990s using the CIO title

Emerging Role of the CIO

Evolution of the CIO Role
The CIO role has evolved through three distinct phases. Just as our thinking on technology has evolved so has the role of the CIO.

  • CIO 1.0: (IT is a resource) First, technology was a utility - used to conduct business. Starting as an “IT Manager” or “Head of IT” or “Electronic Data Processing (EDP) Manager” the CIO role was responsible for installing and maintaining computers – hardware, software, networks. Business uses technology. Technology is a utility. CIO 1.0 keeps the technology humming.
  • CIO 2.0: (IT is a strategic resource) As technology evolved to being a competitive asset - used to create competitive advantage, the CIO's responsibility changed from managing computers to making them useful. The expectation of the CIO role became to deploy technology in line with business needs. Second generation CIOs were expected to create an IT strategy, that supported Business Strategy. Business needs technology. Technology is a strategic asset. Business leads, and the CIO follows closely in sync. CIO 2.0 performs business-IT alignment.
  • CIO 3.0: (IT Drives Competitive Advantage) The advent of internet left businesses flat footed - who was responsible? Could the CIO 2.0, the technology enabler, deal with this catastrophe? Absolutely not. So, how do we deal with the next wave of disruptive technology - how do we deal with technology innovation whose pace is accelerating at the speed of light? Hello, CIO 3.0.

Increasingly, the CIO's responsibility is changing from enabling business to driving innovation. Technology creates markets. Technology is a competitive weapon. CIO 3.0 is a technology savvy innovator who anticipates the next disrupting technology coming down the pike which has the potential to demolish an organization. S/he informs, educates, and helps adapt/retool the business to deal with the impending threat. Most importantly, s/he creates new opportunities for business to leverage emerging technologies to create shareholder value. This is what the new CIO is required to do:

  • Be the Technology Weatherman/Seer: Identify the next disruptive technology in time to take meaningful action
  • Be the Technology Assessor: Assess the damage from this technology to the business before a thing has happened
  • Be the Technology Salesman/Sage: Convince your C-Suite peers on this being the "real" storm
  • Be the Technology Innovator: Identify ways to leverage this new technology to create shareholder value

Emergence of the internet (aka the Dot Com Era)
Large organizations are typically split into subsidiaries and divisions. Each subsidiary and/or division can have a CIO who heads its IT department. The "head of IT" for the overall or parent organization is called Group CIO, and of its divisions, Division CIO

CIO Skills

CIO Training

Different Titles for the CIO Role

In addition to CIO, the "head of IT" role is assigned many different job titles including, but not limited to, the following

  • Head of IT
  • Head of ICT
  • IT Manager
  • Department Head, IT
  • Senior Vice President (IT)
  • Vice President (IT)
  • IT Director

CIO Reporting Relationship

CIO commonly reports to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), or Chief Operating Officer (COO). With the advent of the internet and the deep interconnection between marketing and IT, of late, CIO role is starting to report to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or alternatively, the roles of CIO and CMO are merging onto the role of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO).


A CIO is a strategist, a CTO is a technologist.

  • CIO role concerns itself with using technology to create business value with a focus on business IT alignment
  • CTO role concerns itself with the effective and efficient deployment of technology with a focus on architecture

These distinctions are arbitrary so the roles are used interchangeably and increasingly being ignored with the CTO role morphing into the Enterprise Architect role and the CIO becoming the head of IT. In some organizations,CTO is given to the head of the entire IT department. In others, the CTO reports to the CIO. On rare occasion a CIO job title reports to the CTO job title.

Indeed, the differences between the CIO and CTO roles have many different takes. Here is one: [4]

  • The Chief Information Officer (CIO)

The CIO is internally faced and focused on the company’s bottom line – how to improve internal communication, PMO management, and process control. The CIO is generally focused on improving the efficiency of internal processes in order to guarantee effective communication, maximize productivity, and keep the organization running efficiently. This is an operations role and since it is internally facing the CIO is typically responsible for Infrastructure, Service Delivery, PMO, etc.

  • The Chief Technical Officer (CTO)

The CTO is really a customer facing role (surprised?) and is focused on the company’s top line. The CTO ensures that the company is implementing technologies that enhance product development. The CTO is generally responsible for the engineering team and employing a technical strategy to improve the end product (thus customer facing). This is a strategic role and the CTO is responsible for leveraging new technologies to enhance the product (which can include infrastructure as well but only as it relates to the product and not the internal IT operations).

See Also

Business Strategy
IT Strategy
IT Governance
Enterprise Architecture
IT Sourcing
IT Operations
Business IT Alignment
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Chief Digital Officer (CDO)
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
Chief Innovation Officer
Chief Operating Officer (COO)
Chief Procurement Officer (CPO)
Chief Risk Officer (CRO)
Chief Technology Officer (CTO)


  1. Who is a Chief Information Officer (CIO)? CIO Index
  2. What is the Main job of the CIO? The Balance Careers
  3. CIO Job Discription BetterTeam
  4. CIO Vs. CTO - What's the Difference Chris Coleman