The Role of the CIO

The scope of the position of the Chief Information Officer, or CIO, may vary depending on the size of the enterprise. This role has emerged from an information technology (IT) position to one that encompasses developing the IT strategic policies to ensure the computer systems have the capability to assist the enterprise in attaining its objectives and goals. In some enterprises, the CIO is a member of the Board and participates as a contributor in formulating the strategic goals. The CIO also educates the members of executive management and the employees in topics concerning the business value and potential risks associated with IT. The CIO bears the responsibility of ensuring the IT needs of the enterprise are met to provide business continuity in all related areas and, when the enterprise is large enough, delegates certain responsibilities to other staff members, such as desktop technicians and network administrators.

The CIO must develop a clear vision of the objectives of the enterprise as well as knowing the limitations to their role within the company. This entails establishing relationship with executives within the enterprise and establishing clear lines of communication to further develop an understanding of the expectations of others. The CIO should participate in the prioritization of the objectives of the enterprise to ensure the technological artifacts have the ability to accomplish the objectives. The CIO must also develop a thorough understanding of the use of technology in the specific industry to determine the value created and provided as well as understanding the risks associated with technology in order to develop a cohesive plan that encompasses numerous levels, including the associated costs with technological advances and staffing, the service levels provided, the number of employees needed to support the enterprise, IT projects, and IT health focusing on the existing architecture, capabilities, culture, and delivery. The CIO has the responsibility to establish a team that can assist the enterprise with achieving its goals and objectives even when circumstances require unexpected changes as well as develop relationships built on respect and effective communications.

The CIO is responsible for the development and implementation of the enterprise architecture (EA). As the corporate environment has expanded to often encompass international entities, it is imperative to provide cohesive solutions to ensure business continuity. As such, the CIO must be able to differentiate between various types of knowledge in order to ensure the relative consistency between various technological artifacts in addition to having the ability to maintain this consistency in the event of one knowledge type changing. The knowledge types are obtained through the knowledge and skill sets of the various individuals that contribute to the development of the EA as it applies to the objectives of the enterprise. This requires knowledge of the business procedures to determine that all models and physical objects have been considered, developing an understanding of the levels of granularity changes within the EA will affect, and if permanent changes and temporal changes are distinguishable as well as if proposed changes will present a high impact or low impact effect. The CIO must have the ability to determine if there are incompatibilities between the EA requirements and those presented through the business process requirements as well as the ability to determine alternative solutions.

In many instances, the CIO reports to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who often considers IT to be a method of initiating corporate growth through the development of a competitive advantage by applying measures to ensure efficiency. The CIO is often expected to provide innovative solutions to complex issues regarding the use of IT to assist the enterprise with becoming more strategic while adding value. In these areas, the contribution of the CIO consists of assisting with designing and managing the innovation process as a key member of the executive committee providing strategic business management and through the development and implementation of the technology necessary to propel innovative practices. The design process provides focus on four deliverables consisting of the following elements to increase efficiency while providing innovative solutions. The first deliverable consists of common nomenclature to ensure that all parties in the process have an understanding of the terminology used, especially when considering that each department, such as sales, marketing and market research, and programmers, utilize terminology that applies to that area of expertise. Common nomenclature provides clarity to the objectives as well as the course of action and reduces the risk of potential confusion. Digital interfaces allow the CIO to redefine the manner in which the innovation process progresses throughout the enterprise to provide digital integration to streamline the process through the application of an end-to-end design. The third deliverable introduces new processes that are technology-enabled. The new process should work in conjunction with the users to automate common tasks, such as providing data feeds to import credit card usage for business purposes into expense reports, to reduce the number of errors and omissions. This provides a method of developing and implementing opportunities for innovation that provide solutions for systematic issues. Lastly, continuous monitoring and improvement is provided to establish measures of success and failure to ensure the process is working as anticipated allow the opportunity to provide improvements to reduce the number of failures while increasing the amount of success. This requires determining the appropriate metrics to capture the data necessary to measure the effectiveness of the methods applied.

As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, the role of the CIO is changing as well. The CIO is now often perceived as being the individual within an organization that wields the most power to implement change. This is the result of emerging technologies, including software as a service (Saas), cloud services, and big data, as well as outsourced services, changing the manner in which technology is used and supported. As such, the CIO no longer serves as the authority concerning the manner in which computer systems and the infrastructure works and has expanded to encompass a leadership role that requires the coordination and management of external companies and suppliers as well as internal staff. As relationships with more external companies are developed to provide services in key areas, the internal staff is afforded the ability to transition from a more rigid structure to flexible collaboration in which innovation is a key factor. The CIO must then address the challenges of a changing environment through embracing collaboration to ensure the corporate objectives are met, develop further understanding of the enterprise in the areas of business strategy, customer offers, finances, and processes, allocate financial resources rationally by determining how IT can add value to the enterprise, and consider the team by developing realistic expectations to be able to adapt accordingly.

The CIO plays an important role in any organization as this individual is responsible for all things related to information technology. The advances in IT necessitate flexibility within the role of CIO as it is transitioning from one of upper management to being one who provides the vision for the enterprise, the CIO must expand their skill set beyond the knowledge of all things IT-related to encompass other areas, including product development, financial, and marketing, to develop an understanding of how IT can enable and further the ability for all departments within the enterprise to work together to achieve the objectives and goals of the company. As technology continues to evolve, the role of the CIO will continue to evolve as well.

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