CIO or Chief Information Officer – definition and example

A Chief Information Officer or CIO is the person responsible for the management of technology and the usability of information within the company. The CIO makes sure that the technology is beneficial and promotes progress in the company. In most companies, the Chief Information Officer reports to the CEO.

The acronym ‘CIO’ also stands for Chief Investment Officer, i.e., the executive who heads investments in a company. Chief investment officers are common, for example, in financial institutions.

TechTarget has the following definition for Chief Information Officer:

“A chief information officer (CIO) is the corporate executive in charge of information technology (IT) strategy and implementation.”

CIO – brief history

The CIO position first appeared in the late1950s-1960s, In other words, the period when companies began to embrace technology.

Initially, it was just a technical job, as businesses had their own computers and databases. People were in charge of processing data and information systems.

CIO or Chief Information Officer
We often use the terms CDIO (Chief Digital Information Officer) and Information Technology Director with the same meaning as CIO.

Unlike today, Chief Information Officers did not contribute to the company’s business strategy.

It was not until the World Wide Web became publicly-available, in the 1990s, that the CIO’s role took an important leap.

Providing new IT systems for their company and running old ones on time and consistently were some of the CIO’s roles. This led to a gradual shift towards business strategies.

Today, with companies embracing new and continually changing technologies, CIOs are much more common.

One of the Chief Information Officer’s roles is to predict risk and plan for possible disaster. Specifically, take measures to avoid disasters. Their duties also include budgeting and monitoring IT expenses.

Over the past forty years, information technology has progressively represented a larger proportion of a typical company. Today, because of this, the CIO’s responsibilities are being transferred to other C-executives with IT skills.

CIO skills

One of the most important skills a CIO needs is leadership. They need leadership because they ‘lead’ and guide IT and technology employees.

The ability to rapidly adapt to changing demands and situations is also very important. The modern marketplace is never the same for long. In this context, marketplace refers to the market in the abstract sense.

A CIO must be a good communicator. They need to be able to convey complex IT notions and jargon to lay people. In other words, they have to explain IT things clearly to non-IT people.

Having the ability to see the ‘whole picture’ when developing or creating a strategy is crucial. A CIO should focus not only on the implications for the IT department but also on how things affect the entire organization

CIO – a C-level executive

The CIO is a C-level executive. These are executives whose abbreviated positions begin with the letter ‘C.’  The letter ‘C‘ stands for ‘Chief.’ Other C-level executives are:

CEO or Chief Executive Officer. This person is the company’s top executive.

COO or Chief Operating Officer. This executive oversees all the company’s ongoing business operations.

CFO or Chief Financial Officer. This person maintains and tries to improve the company’s long-term financial health.

CHRO or Chief Human Resources Officer. The term ‘resources’ may also be in the singular, i.e., ‘resource.’ This is the highest executive in charge of human resources.

CMO or Chief Marketing Officer: this is the company’s top marketing executive.

Vido – Evolving role of the CIO

In this BMC video, Shayne Higdon talks about the evolving role of the Chief Information Officer. Higdon is Vice President of Product Management and Marketing for Performance and Analytics at BMC Software.