There’s no ‘T’ in ‘CIO’

Tue, 02/12/2014 - 13:20

Not even in the full form ‘Chief Information Officer’. No ‘T’ and no ‘Technology’ either. The job title is not ‘Chief Information Technology Officer’. So why is there so much focus in CIO media channels on technology?

Perhaps it’s because readers of CIO magazines, newsletters, blogs and professional discussion groups are interested mainly in technology. Or maybe the writers of such material think that their doting public is interested primarily in technology, and have never been told differently. Or possibly both readers and writers just know and love their technology.

Whatever the reason, this primary focus on technology is misplaced. We all know that the role of the CIO is fundamentally different from technology-centred roles. Whilst it requires some knowledge and experience of what technology can do for an enterprise, its primary focus is providing an executive level perspective on, and leadership of, the strategic use of information across the enterprise. And what goes with this territory are executive capabilities of leadership, communication, vision, influence, strong relationships, business savvy, risk taking and broad experience.

Yet the CIO media focuses lightly, if at all, on these latter subjects, and almost exclusively on topics such as Cloud, BYOD and Security. These are not unimportant. But they are far from the be-all and end-all for the CIO.

So why the mis-match?

First, and most worrying, is that there are too many folk carrying the CIO title but not fulfilling the CIO role. Second, as most CIOs spent a not insignificant part of their earlier career in IT roles (where technology remains king), their traditional sources of advice and information remain diligently technology obsessed. Third, there’s not yet a critical mass of CIO media that provides the wider and very different focus, knowledge and practical experience that a contemporary CIO needs.

So, whilst the CIO media matures and develops, new and aspiring CIOs need to seek more widely for media sources of expertise and guidance. They need to look beyond traditional technology-centric media and explore new (to them) media sources of business insight, leadership perspectives and personal development guidance, in addition to ensuring that their personal advisors have the right mix of skills and experience.


David Hendersen

David advises on the changing role of the CIO, and on the development of future CIOs. Working with current & aspiring CIOs in addition to other board level executives, he observes, researches, writes, presents, coaches and mentors. This focus is informed by his long career in industry and business consulting. He specialised in developing IT strategies for multinational organisations plus the delivery of transformational change programmes. His day-to-day work was the boardroom agenda for IT. Most recently, he originated and led IBM's 'Evolving Role of the CIO' thought leadership programme, writing and overseeing a series of insightful white papers on the implications and practicalities of the CIO’s rapidly changing role.

For more thought-pieces on the role of the CIO, please visit David Henderson's website: