The role of a Chief Information Officer


Many people mistakenly believe that the title of Chief Information Officer (CIO) is synonymous with the head computer guy in a company. In reality, the role of Chief Information Officer is much more involved.

"CIOs typically serve as a bridge, conveying technology-related information and knowledge between the many departments of a company.

This key position usually is in place to help solve problems within a business" says Melina Kayila, Managing Consultant at international recruitment firm Robert Walters.

What does the role of a Chief Information Officer involve on a day-to-day basis?

Melina: “CIOs are responsible for the overall function of technology of their organization. They propose the required information technology, create a plan, and implement that plan within the organization, while supporting the technical needs of employees and ensure they are trained in innovative technologies. Chief Information Officers delegate technical decisions to a variety of employees and ensure tasks are successfully completed. CIO’s observe many different activities in all departments and use a variety of information to project future needs and issues. Typically, they identify problem areas and implement strategies to effectively solve problems.”

Many companies and organizations in a variety of sectors rely on information technology to support and achieve their objectives. The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is a job title for the head of information technology within an organization, responsible for the overall operation of information technology and computer systems. The CIO typically reports to either the chief financial officer or, in IT-centered organizations, to the chief executive officer. As information technology and systems have become more important, the CIO has come to be viewed in many organizations as a key contributor in formulating strategic goals.”

What skills are required in the role of Chief Information Officer?

“A CIO is an interpreter, so you ideally need a good blend of technical knowledge and business understanding. It is also important to be a good listener, have strong analytical and problem-solving skills. You also need to be an excellent communicator as you will be building relationships with and managing multiple stakeholders at all levels of the business. You should also be able to think about the big picture and be able to generate original ideas and practical solutions to business and technology problems and challenges,” explains Melina.

The most important thing is to surround yourself with quality people and to have trust in those individuals. You can only be successful if you have a dedicated team around you to deliver the policies and strategies you put in place. 

What are the biggest challenges that CIO’s often face?

Melina: “One of the biggest challenges is satisfying the needs of individual business units without allowing the technical solution to become overly complex. Change is also a constant struggle to manage and yet vital – too slow and you become sluggish and unresponsive, too quick and you risk making mistakes and overlooking more appropriate alternatives. Enterprise systems are complex beasts and so moving quickly is tough. The bigger an organization gets, the more vital change management becomes, but the harder it is to successfully deliver.”

Who would be suited to the role of Chief Information Officer?

“Technologists with good business facing experience and understanding are ideally suited to this role. Business analysts with good technical knowledge stand a good chance of eventually becoming a CIO as they already have that experience of bridging the gap between technology and business,” says Melina. “To really succeed in this role, you need to be able to understand what technologist are telling you and what they need to know and understand what the business is telling you and what they need to know.”  Why did you choose technology as a field to work in?


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