The Role Of The CIO Has Already Changed

The role of the CIO has already changed. I realize most people are forecasting the role of the CIO will change as a ‘future’ projection. Of course there are some noted writers and observers willing to declare the change in the CIO job has only just begun.

But for all of the popular opinions, the overwhelming sentiment is one of reassurance there is still plenty of time for CIO’s to prepare for the changing leadership expectations in the CIO job. I don’t know if that is done deliberately to avoid the reaction from CIO’s who will flame you with accusations of being a Carr wannabe. Or, do they have a sense of there has been a change in the role of the CIO but they just cannot see the signs to know it has already arrived.

The New Role of the CIO

CIO focus model for 3 areas of focus - Run, Grow Transform or Functional, Leader, StrategistThe legacy models used to depict the role of the CIO were based on a 3-tiered construct. Some refer to the role of the CIO using Levels 1, 2 or 3. The Levels aligned to more popular classifications which designate a CIO job based on its leadership focus being a functional department head, a transformational leadership, or a business strategist. That’s the one I prefer when its paired with Gartner’s run, grow and transform. A model I am have to change.

What has happened though is the role of the CIO has diverged. For the vast majority of organizations the CIO job has been diminished. Level 2’s are now Level 1’s and for many CIO’s it is something less than Level 1 where the CIO job is obsolete. The remaining group of CIO’s have seen their jobs elevated to a strong strategist role at Level 3+.

If you can allow this assertion to soak in a bit you might realize why so many CIO’s struggle to add value and develop into a more strategic leadership role. At some point, there has to be some self awareness that something has changed.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I don’t know if CIO’s are just operating with blinders on or they are simply in denial. It’s sort of like a failing relationship where one person isn’t getting their needs met by the other. Someone gets dumped but they never saw it coming and eventually find out they were just the last to know.

And so I would assert the role of the CIO has already changed and CEO/CFO’s everywhere know a break-up is coming that will end the relationship. But there is always inertia and the irrational belief by CEO/CFO’s that maybe the CIO’s leadership can change. And so the relationship dies a slow death witnessed by everyone around but the CIO who remains oblivious unless they have a BFF who will tell them.

Good News for Higher Ed

You know the old joke that goes something like this:

“What would you do if you knew you only had a year to live? I’d go to higher Ed where everything takes twice as long.”

CIO’s serving in higher education may see this change take a bit longer just as most other changes do. The one caveat is the growing pressures on cost, tuition and improved outcomes could in fact accelerate the change for the CIO’s not serving directly in the education departments or university health systems.

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