What is the meaning of ‘CIO’?
First, there is a simpler question: What does the abbreviation ‘CIO’ stand for? The answer: ‘Chief Information Officer.’ But what is the CIO’s role? How is the CIO different from the CTO? How does a CIO make a difference to a mid-market business?
There is no universally agreed definition of a CIO’s role. But in our view, a CIO is a Board-level leader whose remit encompasses all aspects of IT, including systems, processes, organization, and governance.
The CIO helps develop the vision and strategy of the business and ensures the systems and processes create a firm foundation for growth.
For CIOs to succeed, they must be expert at delivering complex, transformational digital programmes. And they must know how to make technology and people work successfully to achieve commercial aims. This means understanding IT in detail as well as being an impressive communicator and organizational leader.
What does a CIO do? What are the roles and responsibilities?
The CIO oversees all internal IT teams and suppliers, all IT budgets and IT operations, cybersecurity, and risk management. Their role may encompass digital and online and they may drive initiatives across other areas as well.
These initiatives should include systems and data integration in order to deliver more efficient processes. Integration improvements are often focused on improving margins and customer service. But the CIO will tie integration to improvements in management information and reporting, which are crucial to enabling growth.
The CIO will also be responsible for streamlining and automating systems and processes whenever possible, in order to enable scalability, reduce costs, and facilitate the ability to demonstrate compliance.
In some cases, the CIO is responsible for linked areas of information and compliance, such as regulatory approvals like GDPR and ISO 27000.
Are there different types of CIO?
Naturally, the CIO’s role will vary depending on the needs of the organization.
In some cases the CIO’s main purpose is to drive transformational change; sometimes the role is to maintain and continually improve infrastructure and systems.
Some CIOs are very externally focused, ensuring, for example, that everyone on the Board understands the needs of their customers. Others are far more occupied by ongoing management of internal operations.
For mid-market businesses, a fractional, or part-time CIO, provides a cost-effective way to access the skills of a top-class CIO.
How does a CIO impact businesses of different sizes?
Systems and technology are at the heart of any modern business, so the role of the CIO is crucial regardless of its size.
In larger organisations, the CIO leads broad-based initiatives where a siloed approach would be counterproductive, for example in businesses struggling with disintegration and incompatibility. The CIO provides unifying leadership, bringing together different groups, resolving competing objectives, and creating buy-in to a single vision.
For smaller organisations, the CIO ensures that commercial objectives are met by managing suppliers, teams, and specific projects. The CIO understands the technical and commercial details and can make decisions accordingly.
In a mid-market business, the CIO spans the range from unifying leader to expert. Critically, the CIO always sets the agenda and drives the business priorities into the IT culture. The CIO is always aware of the strategic direction of the business and ensures that the systems and digital strategy match.
‘A new business strategy required TGS to become the operational centre of the other businesses within the group. We had no systems in place at the time and a very short timescale, so we needed somebody with the knowledge, experience and drive to understand our business very quickly, source and implement a group wide ERP solution, create a new IT infrastructure, and find a trusted IT partner in minimal time. Freeman Clarke came in and completed what we believed was a mammoth task within our timescales, with no drama and delivered us exactly what we needed. Fantastic.’
Clare Coles, Group Finance Director, Traffic Group Signals.
Why Freeman Clarke?
Freeman Clarke CIOs work on a fractional, or part-time model. This provides a business with first-class technology leadership without the full-time cost.
Our fractional CIOs are uniquely suited to mid-market businesses. They have outstanding technical expertise. They are strategic thinkers. They understand how to use technology to drive growth. But they are also suited to the culture and reality of mid-market business.
Whatever the remit, our CIOs operate from the fundamental idea of linking a business’s systems and digital strategy to business objectives. This should be the goal of every innovative company because when the two disciplines are connected, we see real, sustainable growth.