The Career Path and Role of a CIO
The role of a company or organizations Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is very similar to being the end-all, fix-all for all problems IT related. The position also has to be able to anticipate strategy, information management support, risks, advantages and disadvantages, laws, and new opportunities all in one.
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In many ways, the CIO takes on much of the work of a Chief Operating Officer without the glory and rank of one. It is a relative newcomer to the executive board and the position is more than just someone who is in charge of “buying the toys” and “keeping the computers working,”. The CIO is, in fact, the seat that many companies rely on to survive and function, especially with today’s technology.
Where many C-level positions get to spend their time focusing more on policy and strategy direction, the CIO is also spending just about every day in the trenches dealing with the latest problem while still having to perform the strategy thinking at the same time.
Becoming a CIO often starts very early on in a career.
Further, these positions often have to play the bad guy, finding ways to maximize the benefits of automation and reduce the reliance on costly labor as much as possible. And, of course, there’s the issue of also needing to help find ways to create new revenue through automation as well. In short, the CIO wears many hats that often conflict with each other in the process.
Becoming a CIO often starts very early on in a career, taking on the experience and knowledge of how to take a general task and produce a very specific solution for it. This experience is frequently learned working on project development and project control according to ComputerWeekly.com.
Many CIO spend their formative years also working in a consulting role solving other people’s IT problems on a for-hire basis. A number of years working in financial management and budget strategy leadership also help greatly as well, since money provides the bread and butter of project resources. This includes spending time managing procurement and contracts for IT solution delivery as well.
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CIOs today don’t get to rest on their laurels of managing enterprise systems and database software packages. Instead, they are regularly called upon to find new ways of mining data and leveraging existing input system to produce new information products. Whether it be a new report that helps the sales side prove the efficacy of a product or service to a client or a new information trigger that finds ways to reduce operations costs with faster information turnaround, the CIO is expected to produce solutions.
However, this function is often overlooked in terms of expectations on a CIO. Many see the position as administrative, a sunk cost a business has to pay to keep the lights on and the systems going that produce or manage company information. In reality, by being able to identify ways to do more with less cost, the CIO can be one of the major cost savers in a company through aggregation of lots of little savings.
by being able to identify ways to do more with less cost, the CIO can be one of the major cost savers in a company.
Guardian of the Records
Given how much documentation is kept on computers today, the CIO plays a key role in protecting information and archiving it. Through mirroring systems, backup and emergency plans, archive and retention programs and more, CIOs keep the data produced everyday by a company generally protected.
This allows an organization to reference existing data, pull up information for strategic purposes, and provides a key record for legal, compliance and auditing needs. A company lose millions of dollars quickly by simply not being able to produce records as need on activities that have already occurred.
The Chief Problem-Fixer
When it comes to solving information problems or finding ways to gain more data or insight, the CIO is often looked to as the default problem-solver for organizations. With the tools available as well as insight on how to create new tools, the CIO plays a critical role in ad hoc system problem solutions on a regular basis. As a result, the position is often expected to do the impossible. Many CIOs find ways to meet this challenge even though a solution hasn’t been created before.
the CIO plays a critical role in ad hoc system problem solutions on a regular basis.
Probably the most valuable skill a CIO can have for leadership success is to know how to handle extreme pressure and still have a passion to solve problems. Stress and seemingly impossible deadlines are common in the job. The person is often pulled back into work at night, on weekends, or even on vacation. There never seems to be a turn-off time because systems have to run 24/7 or be fixed right away.
Planning ahead provides a key buffer to being caught by surprise, which means a good CIO spends a lot of time anticipating risks and putting in place policies of how to respond to those risks when they happen. Further, without passion, the role is just a job that burns out very quickly.
CIOs often bring to the table an extensive experience portfolio in many different areas of business and career.
According to Salary.com, the average CIO earns approximately $234,000 annually, with some making far more and some making far less. This wide range of this is salary is due to the varied skillset needed in the position, CIOs often bring to the table an extensive experience portfolio in many different areas of business and career. Further, many have some kind of an educational background in management administration, although it is not a firm requirement.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also indicates that CIO’s and CTO’s can make on average $115,000/year. So this backs up the Salary.com claim that the salary for a CIO/CTO can vary depending on the skillset and company they go to work for. The career path for tech executives is a healthy 18% according to the BLS.