What is a CIO?

CIOs (Chief Information Officer) are senior executives responsible for all aspects of their companies’ information technology and systems. They direct the use of IT to support the company’s goals. With knowledge of both technology and business process and a cross-functional perspective, they are usually the managers most capable of aligning the organization’s technology deployment strategy with its business strategy. CIOs oversee technology purchases, implementation and various related services provided by the information systems department. However, at many leading-edge organizations, the CIO delegates many of the tactical and operational issues to a “trusted lieutenant” in order to focus on more strategic concerns.

The “information” part of the CIO’s job is increasingly important. The effective and strategic use of common enterprise-wide information requires someone with a cross-functional perspective. CIOs have taken a leadership role in reengineering their organizations’ business processes and the underpinning IT infrastructures to achieve more productive, efficient and valuable use of information within the enterprise. Many also take a leadership role in knowledge management and the valuation of intellectual capital. Similarly, CIOs are in an ideal position to lead organizations’ Internet and Web initiatives.

CIOs usually report to the CEO, COO or CFO, and they often have a seat on the executive steering committee or board (or at least have frequent and close access to top officers). While the specific title CIO is generally a clear indication of an IT executive’s senior rank and strategic influence, many executives with the title VP or director of information technology, systems or services hold comparable positions.