What Does a Chief Information Officer Do?

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The CIO (Chief Information Officer) is the business and technology leader responsible for overseeing and fulfilling technology requirements within an organization. The traditional role has evolved over time; in the 1980s, CIOs were tasked mostly with in-house infrastructure maintenance. In contrast, during the 2010s, CIOs became more involved in building technology strategies to meet business demands in the years ahead. 

Nowadays, technology plays a crucial role in any enterprise, as it underpins the majority of business operations, rendering the role of CIO more integral than ever.

Do you know what a CIO does? Which decisions should they be involved with when it comes to IT and Salesforce projects?

What Does a CIO Do?

The CIO is the most senior technology executive within an organization, and as such, they are the go-to person for IT concerns. Generally, the CIO reports to the CEO (Chief Executive Officer).

To better understand the CIO, it’s important to differentiate between this role and that of the CTO (Chief Technology Officer). Both the CIO and the CTO deal with technology, however, the CIO focuses on the organization’s internal systems and processes to ensure they run smoothly. In comparison, a CTO’s focus is more external; they are more of a technologist, as their goal is to build and enhance the technology the organization provides for its customers. 

The central focus of the CIO is to increase business profitability through technology optimization. They achieve this by providing strategic cross-functional guidance, leading the IT team, and ensuring the execution of the organization’s technology vision. 

For most CIOs, knowing about various aspects of their company’s structure is essential; they must understand the overall needs of the business to implement effective solutions. Gartner research predicted that, by 2021, CIOs would also be responsible for culture change within organizations (not unlike Chief HR Officers). A CIO’s strategic position helps them to lead this culture change by designing the technology and processes that will eventually affect employee behavior in the workplace. 

CIOs require strong communication skills, as they have to translate technical requirements to the C-suite, external service providers, and their in-house digital transformation team.

Responsibilities include:

  • Setting a broad IT strategy and overseeing its execution.
  • Governing the IT-designated budget and ensuring effective resource allocation.
  • Analyzing new technology possibilities and calculating their ROI.
  • Understanding technology trends and recording business requirements.
  • Taking a leading role in digital transformation projects.
  • Overseeing technology procurement decisions and supplier stakeholder management.
  • Ensuring the systems are integrated to avoid IT silos.
  • Acting as an executive-level intermediary between the technology department and the rest of the business.
  • Delivering presentations on the vision and how the strategy will be executed to internal stakeholders.
  • Governing IT infrastructure, including risk, security and disaster recovery.
  • Modernizing infrastructure (e.g. applying AI and machine learning).
  • Aligning different departments on system implementation and business process optimization.

What IT Decisions Is the CIO Involved In?

CIOs are responsible for managing the technology-designated budget, and therefore, they hold the decision-making power. 

In some instances, non-IT professionals will contemplate and propose new solutions, for example, when marketing personnel require an automation platform, or when the finance team asks for a new accounting tool. However, the CIO will almost certainly weigh in during the selection process for customer relationship management or marketing automation; they must ensure a chosen system fits well within their current stack, and aligns with the technology vision of the business.

During the system procurement and implementation stages, the CIO represents the highest escalation point, and they tend to get involved early on in the project. There are many reasons why CIOs would be involved in IT-related projects, which vary depending on the organization’s type and scale. Generally, CIOs will:

  • Evaluate new solutions and vendors (e.g. to identify where CRM or MAP meets the needs of the business).
  • Connect the new solution to the existing infrastructure (i.e. reviewing platform integration capabilities).
  • Ensure the system fits the business technology vision (platform scalability and ecosystem).
  • Lead cross-departmental guidance on the new system (i.e. overseeing user adoption, maintenance, and administration).
  • Support the IT department with the new system implementation (i.e. high-level project management).
  • Align the new system implementation with the modernization roadmap (i.e. innovation possibilities such as AI and machine learning).
  • Create the link between technology and people by establishing the right mindset to utilize the technology to its maximum potential.

What Responsibilities Does a Salesforce CIO Have?

In terms of implementing Salesforce, a CIO’s responsibilities will involve: 

1. Securing Organizational Alignment

The CIO will have to hold the operational context of the organization; they will right-size and align the new Salesforce CRM to the organization’s current maturity level. The CIO will consider broader business aspects such as cross-departmental alignment. They will ask the question: how will marketing and sales benefit from a new CRM?

Additionally, they will consider location-specific requirements, such as ensuring the Salesforce platform complies with data privacy regulations in a particular region.

2. Keeping the Strategic Direction

The CIO will ensure the quarterly targets are set according to the strategic direction of the company. They will control costs in the implementation and adoption process, and ensure that key stakeholders are aligned with the organizational digital transformation roadmap. This process may include enabling feedback loops regarding user adoption, tracking new processes efficiency, and reporting on the return on investment (ROI). 

3. Staying Future-focused

The CIO will ensure the Salesforce CRM meets the current business requirements and evolves with future organizational needs. For this reason, during the requirements gathering stage, the CIO will learn about different Salesforce options and check if the platform connects effectively with other business-critical systems. 

In the project kick-off stage, the CIO will ensure that key stakeholders keep in mind the long-term effectiveness of the CRM, and what that will mean for each department. After the implementation, the CIO will follow emerging industry trends and look for ways to reduce costs or add value with the Salesforce platform, for example, via AppExchange-enabled enhancements.

Furthermore, it’s important to take the size of the organization into context. For instance, if the CIO represents an SME, it’s more likely they will want to experience the technology hands-on. This means they will participate in demo meetings and choose to test Salesforce configurations, familiarizing themselves with the Salesforce infrastructure and the sandbox environment. 

On the other hand, a CIO coming from an enterprise-level organization may be far more business-orientated and less concerned with Salesforce’s technical details.

Summary

The overall aim of a CIO’s decision-making process is to increase the company’s profitability through the choice of technology. For a CIO, the crucial factor will be answering this question: How will this system increase efficiency, cut costs, and increase revenue?

While cost is an essential element in their consideration process, it doesn’t have to be the determining factor. The CIO can also favor a more expensive solution as long as it brings sustainable and positive change to the business’s overall performance.

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