CIO stands for Chief Information Officer. The CIO is often the most senior IT and technology individual within an organisation, while the job position itself takes the title IT director in some organisations. 

A common view runs that a true CIO is a strategic business leader driving change and transformation within their organisation rather than being the head of the IT department. 

The CIO's role is emerging as one of the most dynamic executive roles, evolving to the demands of technology, digital ecosystems, business model innovation and customer expectations - with CEO reports now revealing they expect their Chief Information Officer to be a strategic business partner and revenue creator rather than cost centre manager.

The number of CIOs reporting to their CEO has increased in recent editions of the CIO 100, with around half reporting directly to the Chief Executive according to the 2017 CIO 100. Recruitment firm Harvey Nash and analyst house Gartner have also reported similar trends in global studies of CIOs.

CIO UK looks at the job description of a Chief Information Officer, salary and responsibilities of the role. [See also: Chief Data Officer salary and job description]

How much does a CIO get paid?

Since CIO job descriptions vary across industry and size of organisations, salaries also reflect the different demands of the role.

According to recruitment firm Harvey Nash, CIOs now earn an average salary of $169.456 (£131.480) in the UK and $185.647 (£144.047) worldwide. It was also reported that CIOs were being compensated more than those with an IT director, Chief Technology Officer or Chief Digital Officer title.

While salaries varied from industry to industry, CIOs in banking, media and financial services received the highest average salaries, with those in education and local government at the other end of the scale. [See also: 2016 CIO salary benchmark by industry - Average salaries of UK CIOs by sector]

Who does the CIO report to?

According to the 2017 edition of the CIO 100, almost half of UK CIOs report directly to the CEO, while 53% are meeting with their Chief Executive at least every week.

It also found that 16% of CIOs report to their COO, 3% to strategy chiefs and 14% to other titles including a Chief Digital Officer and Deputy CEOs. (See also: CIO reporting lines - CIOs experiencing close proximity to CEOs in the CIO 100.) 

Metro Bank recently appointed Martyn Atkinson as its CIO to help deliver a customer-focused digital strategy at the banking firm, where he will report to CEO Craig Donaldson.

While Addison Lee appointed CIO author Ian Cohen as it new Chief Information Officer, sitting on the executive team, and will report to CEO Andy Boland.

The CIO 100 2017 also showed an increase in the number of CIOs with a seat on the executive board, reflecting their success in influencing change and making strategic decisions.

While the number of CIOs reporting to the CEO has increased, there has been an almost corresponding decrease in CIOs reporting into the CFO or finance function.

Chief Information Officer role and responsibilities

While the role and responsibilities of the Chief Information Officer differ greatly depending on sectors and styles of organisation, recruitment firm Harvey Nash described the responsibility of the CIO role to drive a company's business objectives with an IT strategy, solutions and services, and to formulate a roadmap to support the company's overall strategy. Of course, the CIO also has overall responsibilities for leading a team and for the performance of the IT function.

Richard Corbridge was recently appointed CIO at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. The 2017 CIO 100 leader was the CIO at Ireland's Health Service Executive and CEO for eHealth Ireland since 2014 and will take leadership of one of the UK’s largest NHS trusts to deliver a patient-focused digital strategy. 

Corbridge most recently penned an article for CIO UK about the changing role of a digital leader, and said that despite industry differences, many challenges CIOs faced were similar.

"The biggest challenge in health, in the public sector, has to be the resources - both the budget and people to do the work," Corbridge said. "Recruiting into the public sector competing with the big names to bring digital expertise, enthusiasm for digital, is challenging.

"The role of the CIO is so interchangeable across those verticals. You can move around and still be a digital change agent - and some of the skills, some of the needs, some of the problems are exactly the same."

CIO UK columnist Ian Cox described the Chief Information Officer role as being at the forefront of providing leadership as well as changing the culture of the organisation. How these skills are deployed varied depending upon on the demands of a business. [See also: Ian Cox discusses how the CIO role will change in 2017]

Former CIO Cox, a research analyst at Gartner, said that it was now both an exciting and challenging time to be a CIO. "The CIO is no longer the organisation's IT gatekeeper with the power to control every technology decision," he said. "Instead they have to advise, guide and influence the technology decisions being made across the organisation.

"In the digital world, CIOs are required to be business leaders who are responsible for technology, not just pure technology leaders. They need to sound and act like a business leader, take a business-focused approach to leading the IT function and contribute to issues and subjects beyond technology. And they need to focus on the core business, its customers, products and services, and use their knowledge of technology to identify opportunities to create value for the organisation."

What do CIOs say about the Chief Information Officer role?

Who better to discuss some of the challenges, opportunities and elements of the CIO role than Chief Information Officers themselves? Here we look at 10 CIOs discussing the CIO role:


"The CIO role is to provide insight into digital trends, innovation and business growth opportunities. We are now quite a digitally-savvy company, and this approach is now embedded into all departments of the business. We have to constantly provide input on digital and technology in terms of education as this is not a one-time approach but a constant discussion point that needs to be assessed strategically and tactically, especially as the business changes." Fatima Zada, Harvey Nichols’ Group Technology and Innovation Director

"I think the CIO role is being a business person. I think the CIO role is clearly about leadership; people talk about project process and policies and that is important but what is far more important is people engagement. We have got to sell what we can do and deliver it. It just the engagement with the business to be even better and be real business people but overall it is a business leadership role than a technology role." 
John Sullivan, Virgin Trains CIO


"The CIO role is to drive growth, innovation and productivity in a company. It's about planning and connecting the dots on how this is all going to come together. And the CIO has to be somebody who can bring it all together; that's a very challenging set of concurrent activities that we are asked to do."
Robert Webb, Etihad CIO


"I split IT into two. 'Run the business', and 'grow the business'. You have to learn and understand the business and its competitive advantage, understand how your competitors run their businesses and then look to deliver competitive advantage. I firmly believe as a CIO you are the glue, you need to connect IT to the business, vendors and your clients."
Lance Fisher, SThree CIO


"It's important for us to create value for the business. If the IT department is not creating value for the business then it's not necessary."
Fernando Villa, Sagrada Familia CIO


"The CIO role is a first-class citizen at group level, alongside my peers, the CIO also sits on the operating boards of the various digital businesses in the group, and contributing fully to the commercial strategy in so much as the IT one. "
Tim Jones, MoneySupermarket.com Group CIO


"The CIO role is now more than ever about communicating and listening to your customers and users. By holding a seat on the board and making the important discussions happen leading to working groups driving technology forward."
Simon Kniveton, Orridge Information Systems and Services Director


"I don't believe technology and the CIO should necessarily drive the way an organisation operates, but technology will give you more opportunities to change and improve what you do than almost anything else.

"What the technology department should be doing is exploring those opportunities and promote or explore where they see an opportunity; where they can work with the organisation to see if this bit of innovation can really make a difference."
Chris O'Brien, Royal Shakespeare Company CIO


"The era of IT Directors managing large complex data centres in isolation, and in complete control, is over.

"The new job description of a CIO involves relationships and transparency, collaboration and business value. The great digital leaders of the next decade will need to understand their business intimately; they will be the masters of change and they can only do this if they are intimately familiar with the business they are changing. They will be highly skilled at relationships because their colleagues will always have a choice; buy externally or go with IT. And finally they will need to be fleet of foot; agility and responsiveness are key in a world that changes day to day. No one wants to hear about five-year road maps anymore."
Andy Caddy, former Virgin Active CIO


"No CIO will exist without continuing to deliver and needing to do something on a regular basis that demonstrates his or her value. And don't get me wrong, you don't report to the Chief Exec without the CEO feeling that that's a valued thing to do."
Bob Brown, Manchester City Council CIO