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How the CIO came to be: The history of chief information officers

Byron Connolly | Jan. 25, 2013
Two industry veterans take a trip down memory lane.

In fact, he believes that often there is no real distinction between the CIO, IT manager and MIS manager.

"There's always one person in an organisation who is the senior IT guy and their role is always reasonably similar," he says. How they differ is more a product of the size of the company. Any company large enough to have an IT department by definition has to have an IT manager. "The title doesn't make that big a difference to what their role is," he says.

Philipson continues: "You get guys working for 30-man organisations who run a dozen PCs who are called CIOs. [There's a] misconception that if you are a CIO and you are not an IT manager or MIS manager, you somehow have a more senior or more strategic role.

"That shouldn't be the case, but it sometimes is; in a large organisation you might have a CIO and half a dozen IT managers under you. There is no point at which you suddenly morph from being an MIS manager to a CIO."

He agrees that a CIO should be driving business strategy because they are at board level, they are a C-level executive. But in practice, that didn't happen, he says.

"Very few senior IT managers ever got beyond being IT managers and that's still the case now," he says. "With very few exceptions, senior management of an organisation always regarded the senior IT guy, whether he was called CIO or not, as [the IT guy].

He recalls conversations with CIOs in the mid-'90s where they felt they weren't getting the credit they deserved.

"Very few organisations had true CIOs in the way that they were true board members and part of the senior management team."

In most cases, this is still the situation today.

 

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