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How the CIO role is changing as business needs evolve

Jen A. Miller | Oct. 7, 2014
A decade ago, the typical CIO was concerned mostly with IT infrastructure. Today's CIO faces a bevy of additional challenges, namely user desires for mobility and the cloud. There's an upside, though: Helping users get what they need makes CIOs more visible to the rest of the business.


A recent survey from IT staffing firm Modis reaffirms what we all know: The role of CIOs, and the IT department they direct, is changing. Not only do the vast majority of companies view their CIOs as critical members of company structure, they also expect that role to grow in the future.

"With tech being more and more on the forefront of businesses, we were interested to find out, where is the CIO seat now, where is his relationship and does he have the same kind of impact other C-level people have?" Modis President Jack Cullen says.

For its survey, Modis interviewed 500 U.S.-based CEOs and business leaders. It found that 93 percent trust their IT senior leader and say that the CIO hires the right talent for the business. Modis also found that 98 percent of business leaders and CEOs think their CIOs adequately articulate what the IT department does for those companies, as well as what roles IT plays in other departments.

Only 7 percent of CEOs and business owners believe their IT departments don't meet expectations. Half of companies surveyed expect to increase their company's IT budgets in 2015.

The role of the CIO has been more on the forefront of public perception of a company, too, for better or for worse. For better, more CIOs are jumping into CEO roles. For worse, in the fallout of the Target data breach, CIO Beth Jacobs resigned, though CEO Gregg Steinhafel fell on his sword not long after.

Changing CIO Role Result of Tech's Influence on Business
The duties of the CIO have changed in the last decade, says Steve Durbin, managing director of Information Security Forum. "Ten years ago, these guys were worrying about things like the mainframe computer," he says. "They didn't have people like you and me users who would suddenly decide they're going to use their iPhone or tablet to access information."

Part of the reason for the increased CIO role is that the power shifted away from IT and into the hands of the end users, whether they were customers or employees of the company. Mobile, BYOD and cloud-based computing created new challenges for IT departments, and will continue to do so. As security issues have increased, so, too, has the role of the CIO in determining the best course of action to protect the company's customers and employees.

The relationship with the CEO and board of trustees has changed as well. "The CIO would rarely have met with a CEO because they didn't really have much to do in the way of the business being run," Durbin says. "Today, of course, [CIOs] have much more say in what's going on."


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