The StoneWood Blog

"Tales from a Headhunter Deep in the Bush"

The StoneWood Blog is one of Canada’s largest executive search blogs dedicated to the latest executive search news and technology sector issues. Follow the postings from Robert Hebert, PHD - a Headhunter Deep in the Bush.

The Evolving Role of the CIO

November 13, 2015 at 1:55 PM

We have been asked to do more and more CIO searches recently and the market demands on CIO’s are shifting. As more and more business becomes facilitated through computer technology the role of the CIO is shifting rapidly. In the first evolution of technology, companies built large systems that were predominantly geared towards their internal employees and the automation of manual processes. Applications such as ERP systems allowed businesses to become far more efficient in their use of resources and better at delivering value to their customers. But the use of technology is rapidly evolving to a far broader use in business. There is now a huge volume of interactions between machines and an increasing mediation of stakeholder interactions through computers. More and more consumer purchasing is shifting online and more supplier/client relationships are being mediated by computers. Even governments are getting into the act with self-service portals for government transactions providing better and less expensive service for all concerned. As a result companies need more varied capabilities including ever-more sophisticated technology functions.


As this trend accelerates the role of the CIO will continue to change. The days when large centralized groups of internal technical resources developed applications for internal employees has given way to geographically distributed teams creating tools and applications based on huge volumes of company and customer data that are used by employees, suppliers and customers alike.


Business leaders are looking for guidance and direction from their senior technology staff on what is actually feasible, how it can be delivered and at what cost. The modern CIO must be able to understand a rapidly evolving and every expanding technology landscape and be able to advise a senior management team how innovations can be applied to their business model and add value. This includes being able to imagine creative ways of using technology to gain competitive advantage. And it includes everything from back end systems that run the financial reporting through to client facing websites and online marketing campaigns that are designed to raise awareness in the marketplace. These decisions are rapidly evolving to very broad business decisions as well as technology decisions. Once the CIO has an overall vision for the company then he/she must be able to deliver, which is no small task given the fragmentation of specialties in the technology environment, from online marketing experts, to data scientists, server virtualization specialists, ERP application leaders, security experts, and many others. Many of these specialties cannot be housed internally at a cost effective level, so outsourcing becomes more and more of a necessity. Determining what adds value to the business and truly needs to be done in-house and what needs to be done by external suppliers is increasingly a challenge.


The modern CIO is still the creator of the technology vision for the organization and more and more the executive business leader with strong technology skills and the gatekeeper and acquirer of technology services and capability that will allow the business to function more efficiently and drive competitive advantage. It is a far cry from the backroom computer professional that many organizations initially hired. As CIO’s look to remain relevant in the marketplace they must continue to stay abreast of the technology innovations and contribute more as a business leader as well as a technology leader.