Twenty-five years ago, when InformationWeek was just getting started (we were called Information Systems News back then), the job responsibilities of a CIO (and the title itself) were barely defined. Everyone knew what the CEO did and what the CFO was responsible for, but what the heck did a CIO do? Even today, as information technology has become the foundation of business innovation, some might say the title is just as hard to define now as it was then. That's because the role changes as business changes, as the economy changes, as collaboration with partners changes, as emphasis on customers changes. Defining the role isn't just hard in business. Take a look at what the federal government is dealing with at informationweek.com/998/cios.htm.
But one thing about the role is clear. It's far more strategic today than ever before. CIOs are less involved in day-to-day operations and technology implementation and more involved in business strategy, revenue generation, business-process management, and customer relations. One CIO recently described the position as a "master politician" responsible for negotiating and bringing businesspeople together. Another described the role as crossing over into what chief operating officers are known to do.
According to a new CIO study by our sister brand Optimize, most CIOs report directly to the CEO, with some reporting to the CFO or the chief operating officer (a detailed report will be available on op timizemag.com in the coming weeks). But a good piece of advice I heard from one long-time CIO: "You can't just work for your boss. You have to make all of the line-of-business managers happy. Let them know you're working for them. Understand that you're getting paid for linking them."
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