The Changing Role of the CIO

15 May 2018

We heard a story once – no idea if it’s true – of a guy who was employed in the IT department of a household name corporate in the late 1990s. He was earning decent money but whenever anyone came to him with an IT issue, he would bat it away claiming it was an issue for the back-end server guys, not him. No-one knew who the back-end server guys were, or indeed what a back-end server was.

The story was that he winged it for over a year before he got found out and ceremoniously booted out the door!

Whether it’s a true story or not is largely irrelevant but it raises a point which has become increasingly relevant over the last dozen years or so – what do those in IT management actually do these days?

Call them whatever you want – IT Manager, Director of IT, Chief Technology Officer or Chief Information Officer – the role of the person in charge of tech is now a fluid entity, brilliantly described by TechTarget as ‘no longer just operators of traditional IT infrastructure maintenance duties; they’re multifaceted digital frontiersmen trying to find their place in an evolving enterprise.’

Actual IT Takes A Back Seat…

Traditionally, the CIO was in charge of building and delivering technology. He or she was responsible for the budgets to staff the IT department and to make sure everyone had a computer and a mobile and the printers were on the network.

They led the team responsible for making sure that computers that slipped off the network due to a glitch in the matrix were back on the network because otherwise, Sarah in Marketing couldn’t print her PowerPoint doc for her presentation in the morning.

But now, while we still need the front-line infantry to fix the stuff we can’t fix ourselves, the advent of full (or partial, leading to full) digitalisation and our wholesale switch into the cloud has dramatically and permanently changed the role of the CIO.

So What Exactly Do They Do?

Well, the IT Overlord giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other…

Happily, gone are the days of the CIO on his or her knees sorting out network cables, installing servers and unpacking printers and computers. In fact more and more of today’s forward-thinking CIOs are being hired without a traditional tech background, as was the norm during the 80s and 90s booms.

Because cloud technology has (again, partially or fully) replaced a physical in-house platform, CIO v.2018 remains the  technical lead of the business or organisation but has to wear new, very different hats.

Now’s a good time for some stats and this week, they are brought to you by Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory company; more specifically, their annual CIO Agenda Survey. The survey gathered data from 3,160 CIOs in 98 countries covering all major industries, representing something like $13 trillion in revenue and public sector budgets and $277 billion in IT spending.


  • By 2020, global cloud spend will triple that of 2016 and hit around $411 billion
  • 95% of CIOs expect their jobs to change or be remixed due to digitalisation
  • At least 84% of top CIOs surveyed have responsibility for areas of the business outside traditional IT
  • 71% have a separate digital team to help them scale their digitisation efforts


In addition, according to the survey, ‘success is no longer measured in how systems are constructed and delivered, but rather by the tangible outcomes that integrated technologies can deliver to a business.’

Modern CIOs are all at once strategic planners and business-led advisors and their roles now encompass cost and risk reduction, cyber-security and AI trends, the challenges (and opportunities) of big data analytics and the improvement of the overall value that the integration of technology plays in a business, not just the value of the technology itself.

CIOs now play a pivotal role in top-level corporate strategy and objectives. They are, according to, ‘the point of confluence between business needs and technical capabilities’ and these newly-defined roles are more critical to the success of a business than they have ever been, ensuring that in an increasingly competitive market, the businesses they work for maintain market competitiveness.

How have you seen the role of the CIO change in recent years? Let us know on Twitter and LinkedIn. We’d be delighted to hear your views.

As always, if you need us for anything at all, email or call +44 (0) 20 7078 0789 and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Have a good week.

Koncise Solutions

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