You need a CIO

As technology has evolved throughout the years, so have the roles and responsibilities of chief information officers. A CIO is responsible for managing an organization’s IT staff, as well as its IT-related assets like software and hardware, and for strategic planning as it relates to computer systems and the organization’s network.

The role of the CIO is to help to set and lead the technology strategy for an organization, in concert with the other C-level executives. As such one of the many roles of the CIO it to provide an executive-level interface between the technology department and the rest of the business.

So, what’s the difference between a CIO and an IT director?

Well, IT directors tend to be focused on day-to-day operations, while CIOs are outward-facing and more concerned with strategy and leadership. Some IT directors, in fact, report to CIOs, especially those working for large, multi-national organisations at a country or regional level who sit beneath a global peer. Not all organisations will have a CIO: smaller businesses use the job title IT director for their head of technology. Indeed, when it comes to technology executives, the picture concerning job titles is often far from clear.

And the difference between CIO and a Chief Technology Officer (CTO)?

Generally, the CTO will report to the CIO, although not always. The roles of the CIO and CTO, and the relationship between the two, will vary by organisation.

In some, the CIO is responsible for setting the broad strategy and managing the relationship with the wider business, explaining how technology can help to streamline the supply chain or optimise business processes, while the CTO looks for innovative or emerging technologies that could potentially assist the organisation to reach its objectives. In some tech businesses the CIOs lead internal business implementations of technology, while CTOs lead the development of technologies that are being developed to be sold externally.

To be a good CIO, hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that may be required to do a certain job. In job a posting, for example, a hiring company might specify that applicants must be proficient with software applications, be able to do basic math calculations, know how to use content management systems, etc. CIO job postings often ask that applicants have hard skills such as:

  • Proficiency in establishing IT services framework and IT security policies
  • Ability to recruit and direct IT staff members
  • Project management and budget management skills
  • Aptitude for customer engagement analysis
  • Mastery at establishing strategic service provider partnerships

As new technologies emerge and businesses increasingly enter into the digital era, IT strategies evolve and companies demand that senior IT leaders possess skills that go beyond traditional technology management.

IT leaders must possess legal expertise, corporate financial skills, data management skills, vendor and partner management, project management, and expertise in compliance and security. These skills have worked their way into CIO job description postings across industries.