The Changing Role of Cios

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The Changing role of CIOs: from Technologists to Business Strategists and the challenges of this new role.

Name:Awa Ikoro

Word count:1,992


This paper examines the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) in an organisation, and how it is changing from technology and IT-specific to that of a strategist and business developer over the years and how this fits with the strategic business objectives of organisations, drawing from examples from different organisations in different sectors of the economy. It equally highlights the challenges facing CIOs in accomplishing these roles, thereby realigning the different roles of the management team. The paper concludes by recommending how to make the role of the CIO more effective in the developing business models.


CIO is a term that emerged in the 1970s as a result of the increased importance placed on ICT by organisations. (Rockart, 2000; Stephens and Ledbetter, 1992; Gottschalk, 1999). In a traditional business setting, the CIO plays the role of the IT Manager, ensuring the smooth operation of the organisation’s IT infrastructure and strict adherence to its IT code of practice. Broadbent and Kitzis (2005) have defined the CIO as the most senior executive responsible for identifying information and technology needs and then delivering services to meet those needs. In a business environment characterised by constant change and global opportunity, success is determined by an organisation’s ability to diagnose market unpredictability and risks and create platforms to adapt to these changes. Rather than react to change as it occurs, business leaders move proactively and aggressively toward new business designs, delivering a steady stream of differentiating ideas and innovations. This is the new role of the CIO, far removed from the fairly restricted domain of IT and IT infrastructure, and involving a number of changing dynamics: enabling the business to grow versus just optimising performance, allowing open innovation rather than closed traditional R&D practices, creating a culture of strategic growth and innovation and empowering the customer to make decisions that drive a heightened value proposition for both the customer and the supplier (Weil, 2008). Hence, the more integrated the infrastructure of the organisation, the more advanced the business model it pursues and the more strategic the role of the CIO. Today, the CIO performs a senior management role, is active in the strategy development and has a great deal of influence on an organisation’s strategic direction, organisational structure and culture. (Lepore, 2000).


What is the definition of role? McNamara (1997) defines role as a set of responsibilities and/or expected results associated with a job. A complex position in an organisation such as that of a CIO involves a large number of tasks. Kern (2003) argues that the role of the CIO varies as does the business model operated by the organisation. The CIO first and foremost is knowledgeable in IT and technological resourcing. As a technology boss, CIOs are used to dealing with change and the resource challenges that go along with it. They know what it is like to take existing systems and reengineer them for new technology. These experiences from careers in computer engineering, software development and information systems management have helped many CIOs successfully transition their careers into the IT platform. As ICT has become more important, the CIO is a key contributor in formulating the strategic goals of the organisation, reporting directly to the CEO, in most cases. However, the CIOs role has evolved over the years, changing significantly from a technology steward to a senior executive responsible for aligning ICT with business goals and leveraging ICT to achieve the strategic vision of the organisation (Korn/Ferry International, 1998). As a business strategist, the CIO seeks to optimise the exploitation of IT...
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