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How to Succeed as CIO in the New Decade

  • CIO, Sonora Quest Laboratories & Laboratory Sciences of Arizona

Enjoy the following content from our customer, Sonora Quest Laboratories.

Have you ever wondered about the real meaning and purpose of a Chief Information Officer (CIO)? In today’s complex technological environment, it can have many meanings and require diverse expertise as will be shown in this blog post. Initially, however, the CIO role and title was created in 1981 at the Bank of Boston, primarily to send a message to the entire organization that information technology (IT) is not just a means to reduce cost, but is strategic and affects the entire enterprise.

The focus of the CIO for the first 20 years of the role’s existence was to ensure the organization’s networks, enterprise servers, and email infrastructures were all stable and functioning properly, and of course, to plan for and deal with Y2K issues. For the next 10 years following the year 2000, the CIO role began to focus on establishing a project office (project management discipline) and implementing project management methodologies to bring some governance around organizational asks. This required justifying and obtaining big budgets for enterprise-wide system implementations and working on getting big corporate projects delivered.

In the past 19 years, digital transformation has evolved, with the integration of digital technology into all aspects of business. This has brought with it a major shift in how businesses operate, perceive value, and deliver it. Technology is the key driver behind digital transformation, and as the head of IT, the CIO is expected to be a key enabler and collaborator in driving the business culture to adapt with the times and constantly experiment with new ways to deliver value.

Organizations expect IT leaders to be very savvy, especially when it comes to SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud) technologies. If you are not familiar with SMAC, there is still time to learn and be a key driver in your organization's digital transformation. CIOs need to constantly adapt with an eye toward current business practices while closing gaps in IT. In today’s cloud-native environment, a flexible and agile business model that can keep up with consumerism trends and limit technical debt is crucial to success.

The traditional IT focus on in-house development of applications and “keeping the lights on” must give way to a more innovative ideology in which integration, collaboration with third-party vendors, and hosting applications on the cloud have a front seat. The new era CIO needs to be very open to interoperability and should design the enterprise around white space integration. “White space” is a term coined to capture the idea of “what’s missing” and is credited with opening the way for big ideas and disruptive approaches. 

In many circumstances, the CIO can be expected to be a Chief Digital Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and Chief Data Officer, and given the size and complexity of the organization must be open to working closely with the aforementioned titled team members who may or may not report into the CIO. The CIO is no longer expected just to be a technologist, but also an enabler of the organization who works to remove technical debt, partners with the business, and strives to understand the business from the inside while spending time with the consumers of the services that IT delivers.

A 2018 article speaks to four types of CIOs – Frugal, Service Leader, Innovator, and the Visionary:


A CIO who is hesitant to embrace digital transformation, whose main focus is on cost-cutting.

Service Leader

A CIO who strives to run an effective service organization, whose performance is solely based on operational metrics (on-time, on budget, internal customer satisfaction).


A CIO who strives to run an effective service organization, whose performance is solely based on operational metrics (on-time, on budget, internal customer satisfaction).


A CIO who is a charismatic leader with a clear vision; no financial limitations will stop this CIO from reaching his or her goal. This should be every CIO’s goal in order to help transform and lead the business.

In summary, the CIO should evolve from a pure operational juggler of roles and responsibilities, to a strategic thinker who approaches IT as a fully integrated part of the business.

Published by XIFIN
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