Chief Information Officer (CIO)

A Chief Information Officer (CIO) is the top executive responsible for managing and implementing information and computer technology, ensuring they are usable for the organization.

With technology expanding at an unprecedented speed and reshaping industries globally, the CIO’s role has come to the fore as an indispensable part of many companies today. The CIO stays up to date on technology and how it might serve to benefit the company or improve business efficiency.

A CIO's Main Responsibilities

In implementing digital transformation initiatives, the CIO is a cross-functional position that needs a broad leadership skill set, strong emotional intelligence, and technological prowess. CIOs drive innovation and use technological developments to create revenue-generating initiatives in the business.

Here are some of their main responsibilities:

  • Technology leadership. One of the key roles of a CIO is assembling technological services in such a way that it operates dynamically according to the company’s needs. By providing better uptime, performance, and response, the CIO facilitates digital transformation in the workplace, increasing revenue and efficiency along the way.
  • Motivation driver. The heart of the CIO role is building the company culture. At its core, strategic change always considers the way that people within the company think, talk, and interact with each other. A CIO is responsible for making sure that the business operates efficiently on every level with the tech strategies being implemented.
  • Application of emerging technology. The CIO is the key leader when it comes to implementing technological strategies in the organization. Part of this is the responsibility for the selection of which new developments to utilize and which to leave behind. Assessing security concerns, AI and machine learning options, and protecting company data all fall under the considerations of a CIO in decision-making.

Key Leadership Skills of a CIO

In order for CIOs to perform their responsibilities, there are several hard and soft skills required. Not only is it necessary to know the business and its processes from end to end, but it is also vital that the CIO is able to determine the technical needs of each department and translate them in such a way that they are comprehensible to every member of the organization.

  • Managing organizational change. Implementing change is always difficult, and CIOs handle strategic top-level changes that can shift a company’s direction entirely. This skill helps CIOs keep the organization moving forward and working through change.
  • Building internal relationships. Because IT is always involved with all other departments, tension is almost inevitable. The CIO is the bridge between IT and the rest of the company, ensuring that the IT strategy continues to function the way it should.
  • Staying accountable. As a key part of the leadership team in a company, the CIO must demonstrate the ability to deliver on promises and owning up to mistakes that are made along the way. An element of risk is always involved in a new investment. Having the capability to handle these risks, no matter the outcome, is a key part of this role.
  • Continuous learning. With the fast-paced changes that come with the evolution of today’s technology, it has become paramount for CIOs to keep their ear to the ground for new developments. This is a role where innovating means always being in the process of learning and applying these changes in a way that can benefit the company the most.

How To Become a CIO

Being a CIO today is no longer just about having tech credibility. With the influence that the CIO has on a company, customer experience expertise has become just as essential to the role. Business acumen and people management skills are also part of the qualifications for a CIO.

That being said, tech expertise is still necessary. A good business leader without tech chops cannot be in a CIO role and tech specialists in the company won’t be sufficient to cover that gap. A strong grasp of technology is a must in a position that requires serious knowledge of how to implement and improve business processes.

Aspiring CIOs should prepare themselves for a “blended” position, where skills outside of IT are equally as important to the role. Possess a mindset that views the CIO role as a position where a leader enables growth while maintaining an ecosystem where everyone in the company can thrive.

If you're thinking about your own path to the CIO spot, it's probably a good idea to see where you stand at your job today and how you might progress. One easy way to do that is to join your company's public org chart.

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