CIO Job Description

Chief information officers, or CIOs, are an organization’s key information technology (IT) decision-maker. CIOs make business-wide decisions related to how a company utilizes technologies and data. They spearhead projects to overhaul an organization’s IT capabilities, identify opportunities to enhance business-wide performance and efficiency through technology, and contribute to enterprise-wide strategic planning.

As companies and organizations increasingly rely on IT for all aspects of their businesses, the CIO role has experienced a major shift. Successful CIOs understand changing technologies, leveraging that knowledge to enhance profitability, planning, and performance in collaboration with both IT departments and other executives.

 

CIO Duties and Responsibilities

CIOs’ roles differ according to their organization’s IT needs, but many of the core duties remain the same across companies:

Leverage Technology to Build Value

CIOs use technology to build value for their organization across departments and business lines. This can include incorporating new and emerging technologies into an organization’s IT infrastructure, leading efforts to enhance the performance of both server-side and customer-facing technologies, and guiding an organization through a shift towards digital business. CIOs make big-picture decisions to enhance profitability through improved technologies.

Contribute to Strategic Direction

CIOs support business goals by contributing to strategic planning and execution. They work closely with CEOs and CTOs to align IT processes and procedures with overall business goals, identifying opportunities to enhance profitability and performance through the adoption of improved technologies. CIOs also contribute to business planning and growth by advocating for the IT department during strategy meetings.

Develop IT Teams and Personnel

As executives in charge of IT departments and activities, many CIOs also play an important role in building effective IT teams and recruiting personnel. While they may not support the day-to-day activities of the IT department, particularly in a large corporation, CIOs make recommendations, identifying potential new hires in critical roles within the organization’s IT structure. They also develop IT policies and procedures for the department.

Conduct Information Risk Management

With many businesses using data to make key decisions and deliver higher levels of customer service and engagement, CIOs also manage the company’s data and information security. They may conduct periodic audits in conjunction with IT professionals to assess gaps in the organization’s information security and retention procedures, enact solutions to strengthen data security, and present ideas to enhance data management processes.

Negotiate with Vendors and Suppliers

CIOs also maintain profitability and reduce costs by negotiating directly with outside vendors and suppliers. This requires excellent relationship-building skills along with a solid grasp of the organization’s IT needs. CIOs assess current vendor prices and policies, identifying opportunities to cut overall costs on IT products and services; they initiate negotiations and contract development with new vendors.

Develop IT Budgets

Lastly, CIOs develop and manage enterprise-wide IT budgets. By assessing the company’s needs and current suppliers, CIOs determine annual and monthly budgets, ensuring that IT efforts align with budgets and projections. These decisions can involve many aspects of the IT department, from equipment to hiring, and ensure that the IT department’s expenditures and budgets align with overall corporate guidelines.

 

CIO Skills and Qualifications

CIOs are executive-level decision-makers within companies and organizations, responsible for overseeing all IT planning and decisions. Companies typically hire CIOs with extensive leadership experience and the following skills:

  • Information technology skills – CIOs have extensive knowledge of the IT field, making key decisions related to how organizations use and improve their IT resources to support business activities
  • Strategic planning – because they play an important role in aligning IT activities with overall organization goals, CIOs also need strong strategic planning skills and the ability to enact those plans
  • Team management – CIOs make key decisions regarding building and managing IT departments and hiring personnel
  • Relationship building – to negotiate with vendors and suppliers and work across departments and business lines
  • Budgeting and forecasting – the CIO sets IT budgets and aligns them with the organization’s financial goals
  • Communication skills – CIOs need to be able to effectively communicate with executives, managers, and team members while enacting and improving IT strategies and organization-wide projects

 

CIO Education and Training

While CIOs come from a wide range of backgrounds, they typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in a technical field such as computer information systems or IT management. A master’s in business administration (MBA) can provide even more opportunities, particularly combined with an undergraduate degree in an IT-related field. Companies tend to hire established IT professionals and business leaders, so most CIOs have a proven track record of IT leadership, financial management, and strategic planning. Many work as heads of IT departments before taking on the CIO role.

 

CIO Salary and Outlook

While CIO salaries can vary based on the organization’s industry and complexity, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) estimates for executive salaries may provide some guidance. The BLS found that the median chief executive salary in May 2016 was $181,210. The top 10 percent earned over $208,000 while the lowest-earning 10 percent made $69,780 annually. CIOs may also receive compensation packages that include benefit plans and ownership stakes.

The BLS estimates that employment for chief executives will grow eight percent between 2016 and 2026.

 

Helpful Resources

We searched the web and found several resources if you’re interested in learning more about a career as a CIO:

Society for Information Management (SIM) – SIM is a professional organization for senior-level IT personnel, providing opportunities to connect and professional development seminars for CIOs.

The CIO Playbook: Strategies and Best Practices for IT Leaders to Deliver Value – This book explores the changing role of the CIO in an increasingly technology-driven business climate.

CIO Insight – Read this publication to learn about the latest topics affecting CIOs of organizations of every size and across industries.

CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership – Read about how to effectively balance the operational and strategic aspects of the CIO’s role.

 

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