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Each business and organisation has different expectations from their CIOs. While some are happy with having someone who maintains an efficient and reliable IT infrastructure, others anticipate IT executives to have a strong business vision and leadership drive.

Below we have compiled some "CIO types" identified by Deloitte, Forbes and others and which detail the characteristics of each archetype of CIO.

Whereas no pattern type is better than some - each of them is a manifestation of an organisation specific needs and mandates - what the studies show is that they will shift over time as business needs change and some will get obsolete or evolve to different forms.

Trusted Operator

The so-called "trusted operator" CIO type delivers operational discipline by focusing on IT efficiency, reliability, and cost containing.

They provide enabling technologies and align with the business strategy of the board. In other words, the trusted operator is the classic and functional CIO who focuses on running the traditional day-to-day IT tasks.

Because of their ad-hoc functionality, Forbes calls these CIOs "plumbers".

Gartner predicts that the CIO as a trusted operator is a role that in time will likely become obsolete - a warning signal for those 55% of CIOs who responded the survey identifying themselves as trusted operator type of CIO.

Trusted operators usually implement solutions only in response to requests or guidance from other departments or business departments, therefore they tend to lack on proactivity.

For this kind of CIO to stay relevant in the job, Gartner advises taking a major business-focus role and becoming more results-oriented.

In order to do this, the research firm advises CIOs to challenge their current talent model and rebalancing their organisation’s technology expertise to support collaboration within the business.

Although trusted operators are an important figure to the good running of the business, it’s become clear that it’s not enough to restrict the CIO duties to pure IT.

Change Instigators

As their name indicates, change instigating CIOs take the lead on technology-enabled business transformation.

They also focus on delivering emerging technologies and supporting business strategy, making them an invaluable asset to any business. And yet, according to Gartner they only account for 9% of CIOs.

Change instigators have more of the skills and capabilities required to transform business operations and drive top-line growth significantly than their trusted operator type colleagues.

This type of CIO is able to understand how to align new and emerging technologies to support market and business demands, is also an effective communicator, and is able to create a high-performing organisation culture to attract and retain talent.

Business Co-Creators

Amounting to 36% of CIOs from Gartner’s survey, the “business co-creator” enables growth in the organisation through the execution of business strategy and align themselves with the business needs.

Business co-creators spend most of their time driving business strategy and enabling change within their businesses to ensure effective execution of the strategy.

Together with the change instigator CIO, business co-creators will likely contribute to the two mandates of the CIO in the future, displacing their trusted fellow workers.

Like change instigators, these CIOs create hype-free environments where IT teams can test, experiment, and demonstrate value, ultimately enabling enterprises to leverage technology to create business value.

CIO Plus

The “CIO Plus” is the CIO who has taken on additional responsibilities and can include other operational roles within an organisation, including those usually executed by the CTO or the chief innovation officer.

The term was originally coined by George Westerman and Richard Hunter in their 2009 book The Real Business of IT: How CIOs Create and Communicate Value.

With digital taking a more prominent place in businesses, more CIO pluses are adding Chief Digital Officer to their title. Akash Khurana, CIO and CDO of construction firm McDermott International, said his role has shifted from stabilising the IT function to being a "digital transformer", enabling him to open new channels for the company.

"As a technology team, we’re having discussions with customers that we’ve never had before - strategic, valued discussions rather than solely focusing on the stabilisation and optimisation of our function", Khurana told Gartner for its 2018 CIO Agenda report.