The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is becoming one of the most lucrative and powerful roles in large corporations. These C-level executives, also called “Chief Technology Officers” (CTOs), are in charge of a business’s technological capabilities in an economy that is increasingly dependent on technology. They are responsible for everything from a company’s computer network to its e-commerce websites to developing smartphone applications for serving customers. Once just technical specialists lagging in seniority behind Chief Financial Officers are Chief Operating Officers, Chief Information Officers are now essential figures in corporate leadership with a quickly transforming role.
Leadership and Vision
The Chief Information Officer needs to have a clear vision for how companies can harness new technology to improve their bottom line. The best CIOs are familiar with emerging trends in technology and can spot disruptive innovations on the horizon. Many CIOs were caught off-guard by the rise in mobile technology and smartphone applications. CIOs with strong visions were able to adapt to these new technologies and use them to create revenue and improve profitability. Those without vision were left to react to changing circumstances and are still playing a costly game of catch-up.
Leveraging a deep professional network is essential to a modern CIO’s duties. The competition for labor in the technology sector is fierce, but great CIOs know where to find skilled labor and how to poach talented deputies from competitors. They help people in their professional network find new positions and new employees, in hopes that someday those people will return the favor. Great CIOs constantly maintain their network to ensure the best talent and opportunities are on their radar.
Most CIOs oversee large IT departments that reach throughout the entire company. A large corporation may have so many programs, hardware, and computer systems that hundreds or thousands of specialists are required. A CIO cannot be a technical expert in every subject an IT department deals with, so he or she must have excellent management skills to direct subordinates who are technical experts in a narrow field. The best CIOs may not have all the answers, but they know how to empower subordinates who do.
Usually CIOs will have some area of deep expertise in technology. They have have come up through the ranks as a subject specialist or spent years managing an IT division with a specific focus. It is crucial that CIOs leverage their technology expertise to create business opportunities for the company. Approaching the CEO with an excellent product idea backed by technological expertise is a good way to move up the ranks.
CIOs need to be ruthless about finding which technologies provide the most efficient solutions to business problems. Many CIOs struggle with finding cost-effective solutions instead of optimal solutions. Updating all of a company’s computers to the latest operating system may have technological advantages, but great CIOs can see the financial aspects of technology decisions. Being able to weigh financial considerations in technological decisions is crucial to the success of CIOs.
As our world becomes more and more reliant on technology in all areas of life, the role of the CIO will become increasingly important. Possessing the right skill set will help ensure that any aspiring CIO experiences a long and successful career.
Ryan Brown, author of 10 Best MIS Degrees Online, is an IT consultant who has helped many businesses hire top-notch Chief Information Officers.