How the CIO Role Is Evolving

Nicholas J Price
5 min read

The advancements in technology have occurred faster than companies have been able to keep up with how they can use them to advance the company, ensure good governance and protect themselves from the dangers associated with cybersecurity. Several years ago, boards scrambled to find anyone knowledgeable about information technology to help them understand how to navigate this new business world in which they were working. Since then, the CIO role has been evolving.

Some companies invited IT experts into the boardroom. Some opened up board seats for directors with IT expertise. Still other companies created the position of the CIO, chief information officer. As things are continuing to evolve in the world of IT, companies are beginning to realize that a CIO and an IT team still aren't enough. In the coming years, we're likely to see an expansion of positions in current IT roles.

Not only do companies need to ensure that they have all the right technical people on their leadership teams, but they also need the right digital tools to run a tight ship and maintain good governance practices.

A Fresh Look at IT Roles

Around the mid-1970s, the role of the CIO (chief information officer) began to emerge. As the need for a person who works directly with technical teams came to light, companies began adding a second role to fill the need and that was the CTO (chief technology officer).

Moving forward, we're likely to see further expansion of important IT roles, starting with a data scientist. In an article called "What Is a Data Scientist? A Key Data Analytics Role and a Lucrative Career" author Sara K. White states that the data scientist role is well-suited to the current evolving CIO role. A data scientist maintains, collects and organizes existing technological data. White believes that there will be a need for separate roles for executives for data analysis and developing technological organization and maintenance.

Many companies have already developed their main technology systems, and the next step is to work toward innovation, aligning with business goals and maintenance.

Taking a Deeper Dive into Various IT Roles

At least for now, the main roles are the CTO, the CIO and data scientists.

The CTO role is a C-suite position that requires leadership, technical expertise and business acumen. This role requires knowing how to use technology to develop strategies to enhance products. In this position, their role is to focus on customers, end products and increasing revenues.

The CTO position is responsible for managing the engineering team and working with vendors that provide resources for the products. CTOs are the senior executives that develop and lead the company's technical path. Boards rely on their CTOs to be "in the know" about emerging technologies and guide the company in the best use of languages and frameworks.

Companies need to attract and recruit talented developers to the company. CTOs oversee the process of building a team of qualified developers. It's also wise to set up opportunities for incentives, rewards and continued advancement to avoid losing developer talent to competitors. Some companies have expanded the role of the CTO to include duties as a technical evangelist. These responsibilities may include blogging, public speaking and educating the world about upcoming trends and future advancements. CTOs may also be asked to speak directly to customers and stakeholders about products.

In recent decades, companies focused on procurement and using third parties to build their technology systems from the ground up. As technology has invaded the corporate world, systems are up and running and companies are focusing more on maintenance.

CIOs have a strong influence on board decisions that impact the corporation's bottom line.

Moving forward, the CIO role may be taking a turn toward maintenance. CIOs are responsible for implementing, operating and monitoring IT systems and services. This position is right for individuals who enjoy a career path that's dynamic and rapidly changing. It requires people who thrive on learning about constantly emerging technologies.

According to Computer Weekly magazine, companies' systems are getting older. As corporations grow their infrastructures, they will also need to invest more money in maintenance. Currently, companies are investing about 80% of their budgets on maintenance, which falls under the responsibility of the CIO.

How the CIO Role is Evolving

What's less clear about the evolving role of the CIO position is where the responsibility lies for the role of innovation. According to International Data Corporation, as of 2016, 25.3% of CIOs viewed themselves as innovation officers. Also, 40.9% of business executives view the CIO position as being innovation officers, which tells us that CIOs still feel pressure to drive innovation.

Businesses are relying more and more on data analytics to inform decision-making. Automation and machine learning are essential components of IT strategies. The data scientist role is a more general role. They're responsible for extracting important information from the massive amounts of data to help meet business goals. The role of the data scientist is to organize and analyze large amounts of structured and unstructured data using software. Data scientists also must be able to present their findings in ways such that board directors, investors and other stakeholders can understand it.

The data scientist role requires being able to understand the types of information that business leaders and department managers need and be able to align it with business goals. Their work is informed by prediction cycles, patterns, optimization algorithms and similar activities.

Indeed reports that job postings for data scientists rose by 75% between 2015 and 2018. During the same time frame, the number of jobseekers looking for data scientist positions also rose by 65%.

In these times of rapid technological change, board directors need to oversee the various technology roles that continue to evolve and emerge. Board directors should be having discussions about the best ways to leverage technology tools and talent. Diligent Corporation designed governance tools specifically with the needs of board directors in mind. Governance Cloud is a suite of digital software solutions that create efficiency, accuracy, transparency and accountability in the board's important work.

Ultimate success and sustainability in corporations requires aligning the IT vision with the corporate culture, creating an environment in which leaders and employees are eager to learn and adapt, and making the best use of technology tools and talent.