A CIO's role has evolved from having a standard IT background to becoming a dynamic figure in the enterprise. Here is our guide on how the traditional CIO went from being the gatekeeper of technology to a strategic-thinking business leader.
The role of CIO has seen a significant change in both responsibilities and skill set required. Previously when you heard the job title 'CIO' you would have automatically associated it with IT, but the role has subsequently evolved to becoming a strategic part of the enterprise leadership. [See also: The new CIO job description]
A modern CIO now has to implement security and manage budgets, whilst taking lead of the IT services and products being pitched to the organisation, and driving transformation. Here is our timeline of how the role of the CIO has transitioned from being an IT employee to becoming a dynamic figure in the boardroom.
Traditional CIO - Gatekeeper of technology
Starting out as a CIO many years ago required a predominately technical background. The need for creativity or business skills was not so great as organisations focused on risk-averse IT.
CIOs a decade ago were likely to be less aligned with the business strategy and the development of driving success. The role mainly involved overseeing and maintaining software and hardware by making different technologies work together to support business requirements. CIOs would have to find and use skilled people to use complex software development tools in order to build, test and run applications for a range of business transactions.
A traditional CIO would work as many hours as a leading CEO but have fewer results, less success in implementing change and a smaller salary. According to the 2016 Harvey Nash survey an average CIO salary in the UK is more than £140,000, and this is expected to rise with more responsibilities added to their role.
The CIO: Progressing into the boardroom
The evolvement of a CIO has seen the responsibility of implementing IT melded with technical strategy across the business. As a result of this profile within their organisation the new CIO has made the board of directors much more IT savvy and aware of how technology can drive success. A 2014 survey found that when looking for new board members, 52% of directors say being digitally savvy is the most under-represented skill in today's boardrooms.
Aligning a digital strategy with the C-suite can increase growth for any business.
Toyota is currently working on being the 'Partner of Choice' with its dealers, hoping to improve their customer experience. The IT team is focusing on the relationship between the car manufacturer and its dealers, aiming to exceed those customers' expectations.
Toyota CIO and VP Albert Ma said he has seen IT become much more of "the business" in driving success within the organisation.
He said: "We have seen a shift from back-office activities like process improvement and optimized efficiencies, to more customer-facing, revenue-generating capabilities. Our executives really understand this and we’re working together to see how we can drive business outcomes through the use of IT."
IT has become influential and proactive in the workplace due to smart CIOs presenting a business plan of how tech can help organisations drive against their competitors. In recent years, skills of leadership and networking alongside CEOs have become more important. Being effecting when presenting to the boardroom can give talented CIOs a push towards joining the C-suite.
The chance to educate the board in IT strategies and the latest technological trends expands the CIO's role beyond worrying about IT projects or enusring ROI. A CIO can implement change in the workplace, which very few other employees get to do, by pushing future technology trends. Determining the technological landscape of where the business should be going will keep the board engaged and confident in the CIO's position.
Business Shaper and Thinker, and moving away from CIO role
The CIO's role has seen a surge in importance, then but still their priorities are changing. According to the annual Harvey Nash and KPMG CIO survey traditional focuses such as increasing operational efficiency and delivering IT performance have dropped since 2015 by 16- and 27 percentage points respectively as the role has become more of a strategic business leader than a technology manager.
Action for Children has recently reduced its operational costs. The organisation is reinvesting in its core IT operations, with a saving of up to 10 percent expected over the next five years.
He says: "My role has become far more of a senior business leader than an IT director. I am out of the office as much as I am in, including developing my relationships with companies – only some of them tech."
The CIO is becoming an influential employee and business shaper within the company by having a proactive say of how the business will run, and beyond. The CIO would have rarely met with the CEO in the early incarnations of the role, but recent CIO 100 surveys have shown how many technology and business leaders have scheduled weekly or monthly meetings with the chief exec. Technology has moved to the forefront in driving success to the company and CIOs are also progressing to other roles where their skills and overview of the whole business - like become the Chief Operating Officer - could be emerging as a trend as the next step for the CIO.