The CIO’s Changing Role into Leader, Decision-Maker

Some businesses have historically looked at the information technology departments as order-takers, and they have regarded their CIOs as expediters for those orders. However, with the continuing integration of technology into every aspect of business, the role of the CIO is changing. As technology becomes an integrated part of business models rather playing a supporting role, CIOs are also being more tightly integrated into management teams as leaders and decision-makers instead of as down-stream implementers.

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The role of the CIO is especially important in businesses that are undergoing transformations. Most major business transformations in today’s economy revolve, at least in part, around new technology. Whether a business is changing the way that it facilitates connections between employees, transforming the way that it captures and uses client data, or streamlining manufacturing processes to offer faster customization, all of those changes are driven by technology. While the business vision can still be set by CEOs, the scope of the project falls directly under the CIO’s purview.

CIOs come in four different types:

  • Soldiers who take orders and provide IT services but don’t provide business strategy or leadership outside of their departments.
  • IT leaders who run their IT department and stay involved in larger business decisions as they impact the IT department. Many CIOs fit into this category.
  • Change consultants who understand how to transform businesses and who can provide advice on how a transformation may impact the business. These types of CIOs are typically stronger at process than vision and leadership.
  • Transformation leaders who don’t just understand transformations but can actually spearhead them, weaving both business and technical skill to help the business grow and change

The latter two types of CIOs are particularly well-equipped to help drive a company’s transformation. While it’s important that the rest of the C-suite be able to recognize these skills in a CIO, many companies are already there. Research conducted by Forrester shows that 53 percent of respondents in a survey of major businesses undergoing transformations rated the CIO as the most senior leader in the change. Given that transformations rarely happen without transformative technology, this is a positive indicator for business moving forward.