The Evolving Role of the CIO

Published: 20 April 2016

Over recent years the role of the CIO has come under a lot of scrutiny. Add the onset of the CDO; in my opinion a role soon to be extinct akin to the Victorian Chief Electricity Officer, the role and remit of the CIO remains something seemingly under perpetual challenge of redesign. 

We recently gathered a group of CIO’s from across industry to discuss the evolving role of the CIO, the challenges that come with it and the behaviours and traits the role now demands. Looking at the group in the ‘now’ they represented a diverse mix of sectors, but almost all had moved cross sector several times throughout their career; great credentials for commenting on the evolving role of the CIO. 

Amidst the ‘what’s next for the CIO?’ debate has come a strong feeling that within a mature market the CIO is roundly (albeit not universally) recognised a genuine holder of a seat at the right boardroom tables.  Indeed the ‘what’s next’ debate was perhaps a touch hasty! The group shared some strong views which reflected that now is the time to make things happen, and let actions speak louder than words. Our discussion centred upon demonstrably being a senior leader first, and a functional leader second, striving to be ever better at delivering upon the challenges at hand; commercial, technical, digital or whatever form they take.

In what was a lively, impassioned and candid discussion the following summarise the key aspects of the evolved CIO’s place and contribution; 

  • The contemporary CIO is unabashedly a CIO! Led by commercial outputs, and relentlessly focused upon driving their teams to ever improved performance from IT.
  • A champion of the information agenda. On or off the balance sheet, information is a tangible asset with meaningful value. The contemporary CIO is at the vanguard of intelligence ownership and exploitation.
  • A leader and commercial thinker, both in the IT function and as a part of the senior leadership team. Deal in outcomes. Cloud is your decision, but the mobility, resilience, improved delivery it enables are the commercial outcomes that you trade in.
  • Technology brings the opportunity to place your fingerprints onto almost every part of the organisation, and every stage in the investment cycle. Influence and intellect will bring you into the decision making.
  • Own the outcomes you deliver. Consistent high quality delivery will keep you at the heart of strategy evolution.
  • Your teams must be an extension of you. Their actions, perspectives and customer engagement must align with your own. Making sure they are on the same track aids delivery, business perspectives, and succession planning!

The view from the CIO seat has never been better. The best will thrive in this rich and challenging digital age. Connect the immediate with the strategic, be an invaluable part of the commercial leadership team and allow consistent delivery to be your ticket to the next role. Be a great CIO, before worrying about being anything else. If you get it right, it might be tough to find a spot to beat it!

Matt Cockbill is the Managing Partner for the IT & Technology Leadership Practices at Berwick Partners. 

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