Ready or Not, CIO Role Is Changing

Ann All

Is a CIO by any other name still a CIO? That's a tough question to answer, since so many folks seem uncertain what the heck a CIO does. Some, like Wired's Chris Anderson, apparently think it doesn't amount to much. Anderson's opinion notwithstanding, lots of folks agree that many business-critical functionsfall under the purview of the CIO.


Not surprisingly, there's a pretty lengthy history of folks suggesting the CIO title should be changed to more accurately describe the role of technology executives. For instance, when I interviewed Philip Lay of TCG Advisors way back in 2006, he suggested that the CIO role should be split into two separate functions, a chief process innovation officer and chief information technology officer.


That idea was echoed at this week's sixth annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, an event chronicled on, when Alan Trefler, CEO at business process management specialist Pegasystems Inc., said he thought CIOs needed to focus on process optimization. Other suggestions for a CIO refresh offered during the event: Chief Simplicity Officer, Chief Organizational Officer and Strategy Execution Officer. All seemed to hit upon the perenially popular idea that CIOs need to promote the idea of technology as a business enabler.


With such game-changing shifts in technology delivery as cloud computing hovering on the horizon, focus will naturally shift from simply providing technology services to positioning those services as a key part of overall business strategy. Not all CIOs will be able to make the switch, commented Thomas Malone, the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at MIT Sloan.


Earlier this month when I interviewed Robert Austin, one of three authors of "The Adventures of an IT Leader," he told me much the same thing. He said:

If you come from a technical background, it's a challenge to develop an appropriately outward-looking sensibility. The classic problem for a technical person is that, because you do feel expert in technical areas, in the moments that you should be going and being consultative with the CEO, your reflex is to go and hang with your team instead and help them solve the problem.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 9, 2009 1:40 AM Web Developer Web Developer  says:


     Excellent article. Innovation indeed.   Great split of the roles.  I wonder many CIO will think about that.

I really wonder how many really get time to the 'sleeves rolled up' approach of innovation. That the the ideal way to get it to be really innovative without being too g@@ky.



Jun 30, 2009 4:40 AM Rick Rick  says:

A good measure of an organization is the interaction and balance among the Sales, Executive, Technology, and Administrative departments of a company. A CIO who can communicate at the executive level, build technology infrastructure, actively lead change  to prepare for future business needs, and enhance and coordinate deployments in support of sales efforts is ready to lead in process change. Ideally, the CIO should also be a innovator and a visionary.

Because so much of today's work relies on technology, the CIO naturally becomes a key player in process and performance improvement. New opportunities and technologies are making process automation, improvement, and management easier and more robust.

Companies who do not involve their CIO heavily in the improvement process need to do some soul-searching. Do they have the right CIO? Do they have a corporate culture that doesn't foster teamwork and camaraderie? Are there other issues within their executive leadership team inhibiting teamwork?

A great team working together to make things better - isn't that what everybody is looking for?

Rick Chin

Manager, Solutions Marketing

Interactive Intelligence

Nov 15, 2009 3:03 AM Paul Crout Paul Crout  says:

I think it's important to highlight these two aspects of the CIO role: Process Improvement/Innovation & Technology Improvement/Innovation.

However, should business be pushing to split these roles into different positions?  Or, should businesses be looking for a CIO candidate who can effectively crossover and see how these two things are ultimately connected and interdependent?

In my mind, saying: "Some CIO's will be more focused on the technology and other CIO's will be more focused on the process, so we should make two different roles for these different types of executive styles..." is ignoring the fact that there is a gap to be bridged.

Segmenting the management of these two tasks which are inherently connected in my mind will, if anything, only lead to more red-tape and bureaucracy within the realm of IT.  Instead of two partners who work in synergy, it's more likely you will have two rivals competing for pull and resources.  And still, the question: "Who then bridges the gap between the process and the real world implementation of the process (the technology)?" goes unanswered.  Do these two roles then role up under yet another more senior executive who then must reconcile these two initiatives?

In my mind if, as a CIO, you are not able to identify the need to effectively balance the process with the technology such that the latter meets the needs of the former while being mindful of the real world technical and financial limitations that exist for the latter - you shouldn't be the CIO.

At the very least, anyone in a CIO position who does not have maintaining that balance as their primary goal within the business should re-evaluate their goals.

Apr 3, 2010 6:30 AM mac data recovery mac data recovery  says:

Excellent article. Innovation indeed.   Great split of the roles.  I wonder many CIO will think about that.

I really wonder how many really get time to the 'sleeves rolled up' approach of innovation. That the the ideal way to get it to be really innovative without being too g@@ky.

Aug 24, 2010 9:12 AM uk dress uk dress  says:

That's  wonderful

Sep 17, 2011 4:39 AM led grow lights led grow lights  says: in response to uk dress

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