The Ever-Evolving Role of the CIO

Traditional CIO Responsibilities

Among the panelists, there was mutual agreement that the main responsibilities of the CIO included the following:
  1. Deliver high-quality, complex programs on time and budget
  2. Manage multiple stakeholders inside and outside the organization
  3. Ensure the highest standards of information security
  4. Serve as an effective strategic partner to the line

The traditional role of the CIO is an expert counsel in all IT matters for all departments across the organization. He or she is capable of evaluating even the most complex proposals from outside vendors and is ready to ask the hard questions on behalf of the organization that he or she represents.

Throughout the discussion, however, it was agreed that the main attribute of any successful CIO is advocating effectively to all constituents on whether to stay the course or implement a change.  Moreover, to do so in a manner that correctly weights in the merits from a business improvement perspective as well as a cost efficiency perspective.

Emerging Trends and Catalysts for Change

Throughout the ramp-up period towards the 2013 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, the university worked with an executive search firm to conduct on a survey on what the emerging trends are that directly affect the traditional role of the CIO. Survey respondents identified four key trends:

  1. Newer innovations such as mobile and cloud/SaaS driving consumer demand for multi-chanel service
  2. Employees demanding greater enablement to meet new customer demands
  3. Big Data is creating new and better ways to engage customers and manage businesses
  4. Increased board engagement in technology and IT issues

It is not a surprise that the first three trends are topics that we are consistently discussing in this blog: cloud/SaaS, increased employee access to data and smarter users of data. For example, the CIO would be the one to evaluate whether a company should deploy a cloud-based contract management system on its own servers or select a fully virtualized option from a vendor. He or she needs to do this and, at the same time, be able to explain their decision to all constituents in plain English.

The New CIO Responsibilities

During the discussion, one of the panelists pointed out that while these four emerging trends are important, the discussion about them ends the minute that a key application, such as email, goes down. This is why the CIO has to keep excelling at the four traditional roles. However, the new CIO must also be capable to react to the new catalysts; specifically, he or she must:

  1. Have a digital roadmap for the business
  2. Manage complex data and information assets
  3. Productize/monetize information and technology assets
  4. Continually enhance the customer experience

Managers are eager to adapt new technologies, such as an enterprise contract management system mentioned earlier, but they may lack the expertise to develop an enterprise-wide digital roadmap and assess how those technologies affect it. In conclusion, while the role of CIO is ever-evolving, it continues reiterate the importance of the CIO in the boardroom as he or she is needed in order to safely gain a strategic advantage through the use of technology.