CIO Exchange: The evolution of a technologist

The role grew out of a need. Dave Codack, head of employee technology and network services at Toronto-based TD Financial Group, remembers a time when the role of technologist, which predates today’s CIO, was more “about running the business. It was about keeping alive.”

But just “keeping alive” isn’t an adequate methodology for modern businesses. Codack said that after Y2K and the dot com burst, big deals started happening and there was a surge in technology adoption rates.

Codack said the second phase of the role of CIO started in 2007. A current CIO has to be concerned with integration and use of social media, ERP and CRM solutions and consolidating infrastructure.

“Here you have a time period where the role of CIO is quite visible. It has presence at many tables. It may even have presence at the senior executive table.”

Not only that, but a large proportion of CIOs are now coming from a business-only background. As opposed to the technologists who had to learn to set policy and lead from a business role in the early 2000s, Codack said that 39 per cent of CIOs ranks come from business experience with 9 per cent having never had any relevant technology experience at all.

The role of CIO has undergone a “movement to a CEO-type role. You now have a caliber of individual that understands strategy, that is a change agent for the company and these individuals are going to be critical for driving business to the next level.”

Tim Hewat sees the challenges for CIOs moving forward, as related to him in his role as partner at Toronto-based Amrop Knightsbridge, as a matter of positioning. It’s a question of “whether or not they’re allowed at the (senior executive) table, whether or not they’re seen as a subject matter expert or are they seen as really helping to drive the business.”

It was a common theme during the talk and came up a few times from the CIOs themselves. Right now, they’re fighting for a spot at the ‘table’ as they see it, to gain recognition that the title they fought to have recognized be seen as equal to the other “chiefs” at the company.

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