Evolution Of The CIO - Why They Are More Important Than You Think

Technology has taken over every sphere of business. Be it in enterprise resource planning, or automating business operations – technology forms the base of every business decision making process. This has essentially married the roles and responsibilities of a CIO with that of a CSO, the person who is technically responsible for the company's business strategy. The average CIO today makes as many decisions that pertain to the company's strategy as they do with respect to technology and information management.


This is not all. Marketing operations in businesses are getting increasingly automated, thanks to technology. As a result, the average CMO today deals with as many technology based decisions as they do with respect to marketing. Quite evidently, the future does seem to move towards a scenario where all the CXOs work in overlapping areas of expertise – this requires greater synergy and coordination among the various heads.


What does this mean for the CIO? Given that technology is vital in achieving the goals of the various departments, the CIO has started to play a more pivotal role in the organization. They are the “consultants” who provide the various departments with the strategy and advice with respect to the right technology to adopt to meet their objectives – be it picking Dropbox over Box.com, or choosing between NetSuite and Ramcofor ERP.


Here are some of the new roles and responsibilities across boards that CIOs have taken up in the past few years:


Competition Benchmarking : Every company today has a presence on the web and mobile platforms to ease business operations. The strategy and vision for businesses are derived from competition benchmarking, and CIOs play a pivotal role in helping departments understand the strategies adopted by various competitors from a technology standpoint. This is crucial in helping the product and marketing departments shape their own strategies.


Innovation : Competition benchmarking is one thing, but one area where a CIO can truly shine is in pioneering new areas of innovation within the company through technology. For instance, go back a decade or two to a time when business communication was still primarily carried out through a PBX based telephone system. Pioneering businesses of the day were responsible for making the migration to SIP trunking and Unified communication systems that are today in the mainstream. According to AllStream, a leading Canadian SIP service provider, the resulting savings from migration to SIP trunking are over 40% - an early-moving CIO could have provided the first mover advantage towards cost reduction, and could have thus enabled their company in launching more aggressive marketing campaigns.


Cost Control : Another major driver for businesses to move towards cloud computing is the corresponding cost minimization that it brings. Consequently, one of the major tasks of a CIO is to help various departments in an organization pick the right technology product that will help them control costs.


Technology is an area that has seen massive evolution over the past decade, and there is no doubt that this will continue to remain so for the near future. Given this, the role of a CIO is extremely critical and could be the difference between the leader and an also-ran across industries. What are your thoughts?

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Bill has been a member of the technology and publishing industries for more than 25 years and brings extensive expertise to the roles of CEO, CIO, and Executive Editor. Most recently, Bill was COO and Co-Founder of CIOZone.com and the parent company PSN Inc. Previously, Bill held the position of CTO of both Wiseads New Media and About.com.