What is it with the CIO role (part 2) …

angry man with laptop 2… that a growing number of people appear to be obsessed with redefining the meaning of the CIO title? Over recent weeks there has been a steady stream of articles seeking to redefine the meaning of the ‘I’ in CIO. Innovation, integration and intelligence have all been suggested as alternatives in recent articles. Whilst some have even gone as far as saying the’ I’ should be replaced altogether with a ‘C’ (for Customer).

In March last year I wrote the original What is it with the CIO role… article, which was prompted by the constant speculation about whether the CIO role would exist in five years’ time. I didn’t realise back then that this may have to turn into a series aimed at refuting the latest noise and misinformation about the CIO role!

Granted the current trend of trying to rebrand the CIO role is not as extreme as proclaiming its extinction but it is just as unhelpful. The CIO role gets a pretty mixed press at the best of times; it is both a challenging and evolving role. So changing the meaning of the job title is not going to help and could serve to undermine the role further.

The CIO role has only been around for about 30 years and it has faced many challenges during its young life. Most of these challenges have come from changes in technology and the role it plays in the organisation. CIOs have not helped themselves either as many have struggled to keep pace with the changing nature of their role. And it’s also fair to say that the role is not well-defined or understood in many organisations. But the last thing it needs right now is a change in the meaning of the CIO title or in the title itself. And certainly not a change to something that is, arguably, narrower or even less well understood than the current meaning.

And therein lies probably the biggest issue with the suggested alternatives to ‘information’ in the CIO title; they are too narrow and each focuses on a single aspect of today’s CIO role. Innovation, integration, etc., are all aspects of the CIO role. But the role is much broader than all of these. And that’s what makes it such an exciting and challenging role, with so much potential for those that perform it successfully.

The fact that the ‘I’ stands for information may not give a nice, tight definition in the same way as Marketing or Financial does in the CMO and CFO titles. But I think it is both suitably vague and broad in a way that befits a role that is still relatively new to the C-suite and which is still evolving at a fast rate.

So my message to anyone that is thinking about an alternative meaning for the CIO title is to stop, step away from the keyboard and think about writing something positive about the CIO role, its importance in today’s organisations and its potential to grow and develop in the future.


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