What is the meaning of a CIO?

There are multiple definitions of a CIO, almost as many as there are CIOs, but in our view, a CIO is a Board-level leader whose remit encompasses all aspects of business IT, including systems, processes, organization, and governance.

The CIO, along with the rest of the board, helps develop the vision and strategy of the business and then ensures technology provides a firm foundation for delivery of that strategy and that will include supporting the other board members achieving their strategy through technology.

For CIOs to succeed, they must be expert at delivering complex, transformational digital programmes. And they must know how to make tech and people work successfully to achieve commercial aims. This means not only understanding IT in detail, but also being an impressive communicator and organizational leader and capable of knowing the rest of the business too.

What does a CIO do? What are the roles and responsibilities?

I think the CIO oversees all IT functions and suppliers, the IT budget and IT operations, cybersecurity, and risk management. In addition, their role may encompass digital and online and they may drive initiatives across other areas as well.

These initiatives will include systems and data integration 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, enabling scalability, supporting cost control and facilitating the ability to demonstrate compliance.

Increasingly, the CIO is taking responsible for linked areas of information and compliance, such as GDPR, PCI and ISO 27000.

Are there different types of CIO?

Naturally, the CIO’s role will vary depending on the needs of the organization and in many respects it depends on what the CEO wants from the role.

In some cases the CEO wants the CIO to drive transformational change; sometimes the role is to maintain and continually improve infrastructure and systems.

Some CIOs end up externally focused, ensuring, for example, that everyone on the Board understands the needs of their customers and owns the digital strategy. Others are far more occupied by ongoing management of internal operations.

For mid-market businesses, where a full time CIO is out of the question a ‘fractional’, or part-time CIO, provides a cost-effective way to access the skills of a top-class CIO.

How do CIO’s impact businesses of different sizes?

Systems and tech 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, this is particularly the case where there’s significant technical debt, lack of integration or fast growth environments. 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

In the end, does it matter what “CIO” means? I think we worry about this too much! Perhaps we should just make sure that our CEO trusts us to deliver and they know that IT is enabling growth across the board. How we achieve that is a level of detail and capability is neither here nor there. So, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter, let’s just be a great and equal member of the board!