The “New” CIO: A Culture Shaper

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Traditionally, the role of the CIO has been to guide the adoption and support of new technology in the workplace. Today’s technology has rendered that definition simplistic, and it is important for business leaders to understand the new cultural implications of the CIO role. The “new” CIO is not just the lead decision maker about new pieces of technology but is also the key to determining how the organizational culture will develop and evolve as a result of that technology.

The CIO still faces the traditional challenges of ensuring that technology is functional and that the company is using relevant devices and software. The CIO’s approach to these challenges has a major business and social impact on the company. For example, if the CIO makes the decision to allow employees to receive email on their mobile device, this implies that email access is critical to the business and must be always available. Employees may now feel that they are required to reply to emails outside of work hours. The CIO must consider the cultural implications of decisions like this one.

The “new” CIO is also faced with a stereotype that further complicates the CIO role: that IT at work is “behind” IT at home. The “new” CIO has to find a way to combat employee belief that the corporate environment cannot keep up with or fully leverage the latest and greatest technologies. For example, if employees want to use cloud-based file sync and collaboration tools to help them do their work, it is the CIO’s role to decide whether those changes present a substantial security risk to the organization. If the CIO is too restrictive, the cultural impact may be that employees view IT as restricting them from using technology that could be of great benefit to them. Of course, if the CIO takes too long to determine corporate policy for new technologies, it will be too late because a new technology will have already arrived.

At the heart of the matter is the fact that the “new” CIO needs to embrace his or her role as a cultural leader and a visionary for the organization. Due to the rapidly evolving cultural implications of the CIO, organizations should consider separating the role of CIO as technological supporter and manager from that of the visionary. This distinction will help businesses better understand and consider the significant convergence between technology and culture.