Who is a CIO?

We were having a conversation with a client the other day and the question of “Big Data” came up. Does it, they wondered, affect our company? What should we do about it if anything? Since the dawn of the computer age, buzzwords have been part of the business lexicon. A few years ago, it was “Digital”, “Web-enabled”, and “Networking”. Today it’s “Big Data”, “cloud”, and the “Internet of Things”.

Business leaders always need to separate the wheat from the chaff. On the one hand, they worry the competition knows something they do not; on the other hand, chasing new technology can be a big waste of time and money.

Enter the CIO. In large companies, the leader tasked with technology selection and vetting is the Chief Information Officer or “CIO” for short. So what does a CIO do? The word “information” covers almost every topic, so the actual role of a CIO can seem vague and broad. However, a CIO’s duties are quite similar to an air traffic controller – they guide planes i.e. information, to their correct destination quickly and safely.

How does the CIO make sure information gets to the right place? They’re the information leader, so they must know how information flows within an organization. In a well-functioning organization, information moves from the marketing team in the form of leads to the sales team; from sales representatives to the operations team in the form of sales orders. Then, the folks that do the work, i.e. production, service, and delivery personnel, forward information in the form of collections to the finance and accounting team. Finally, the information comes full circle to the marketing, sales, and operations teams in the form of capital to be reinvested in the business. A CIO must have a grasp on how these core functions and supporting departments communicate within an organization.

As more information is passed along in the organization, certain tools are pivotal in capturing the right information. A CIO needs to find effective tools which:

  • bridge information gaps in the company without bombarding users with data
  • are cost effective – a CIO integrates new software or hardware when it’s a fit, not because its new or trendy and;
  • are user friendly

This doesn’t mean they are the expert, but an understanding of a tool’s fit and functionality in the data roadmap of an organization is essential. Otherwise, issues like unnecessary data; overcomplicated tools dragging on an employee’s time; and high expenses for software can reduce the value of the organization.

One important trait of the CIO is they act as a barrier to protect the data from threats outside and within. It is a balancing act between overreaching security measures and susceptibility to outsiders gaining access to important data. Sometimes negative events are unavoidable, so the CIO ensures that an effective disaster plan and data recovery procedures are in place to keep the business afloat.

The CIO doesn’t need to be a programmer to understand information systems. However, a familiarity with the technical side of computers most certainly helps. They are the conduit between IT and the core functions of the business, balancing each one’s desires. In addition, CIOs need to be aware of market trends, specifically in data security. By keeping an ear to the ground, CIOs can build a stronger shield against even the most cunning threats.

Although it may seem as so, CIOs aren’t super geniuses that know every single detail of the entire business. However, they do possess the skills and knowledge to assure everyone gets the right information, right now. And much like a maintenance person, you may not know they’re doing a great job when things are neat and tidy; it is only when things become disorderly do you notice the quality of their job.

Do you feel like organizational trash is piling up? Over the years, the MVS Alliance team has helped many of our clients make things tidy. Take a moment to give us a call about how we can help you de-clutter and get things back in order.