What does the CIO do?

Sam Bloedow
Group of workers listening to leader

Business and technology are ever-changing — your IT plan should too. The fact is, technology today helps make every other function in your business more effective and efficient, which also increases the revenue each employee can support. 

You’ve heard of the c-suite title of Chief Information Officer (CIO), but you may not employ one – or even if you do – you may not be entirely aligned with what their key roles and responsibilities are.  

So, what does the CIO do? 

The CIO is responsible for the IT and computer systems that support enterprise goals.  
It is the CIO's job to innovate, collaborate, balance the IT budget and motivate IT staff. 

Watch now: Who is the Fractional CIO? 

Key Responsibilities of the CIO 

Manages IT staff and develops department goals 

Too often we see companies stop at department goals around uptime and response time. While good, these goals just support a tactical approach, not a strategic approach.  There should be additional foundational goals around creating a quiet, predictable, secure IT environment, free of ticky tack disruptions and changes that slow your people down.   

A good metric is once you add up all the support, change and alerts for the month there should be at least 5x that many people in your company.  So, for a 40-person company a truly quiet, predictable, secure IT environment should only have a total of 8 support, change and alert tickets combined, per month at maximum.  Every ticket more than that is costing your company more in overhead in terms of IT people needed to solve the issues and in terms of the rest of your staff, from all the disruptions to getting their work done. 

Develops and oversees the IT budget 

The CIO manages the IT budget your team helps put into place, and asks questions like does it include the most important things that need to happen in the coming year? This way during the year the budget is managed while eliminating surprises. 

Plans, deploys and maintains IT systems and operations 

The CIO maintains or improves systems and IT operations to maximize performance. 

Manages the organization's software development needs 

The CIO manages software packages and helps to determine whether the benefits outweigh the cost of pursuing customization, over software that is otherwise available in the market. 

Develops IT policies and procedures 

Having IT policies that outline our specific technology approaches helps to ensure consistency and that our procedures support them. For example, what is our remote access policy? What is our backup and disaster recovery policy? What is our physical access policy? Do we have any? 

Stays updated on IT trends and emerging technologies 

The CIO assesses what current technology is going away, what current technology will be around for the life of the investment, and what new technology is coming that we should pursue or wait for. 

Develops and enforces IT best practices  

The CIO considers how each piece of hardware and software should be set up, so that it is issue-free, intuitive to use, secure, and helps our people be the most productive. How do we stay up to date as business and technology change, and how do we ensure those best practices are put in place and stay in place? 

Ensures IT strategies and processes support company-wide goals 

Does the direction we are headed with our IT investments best support the current and future direction of our company?  This includes not only products but people and processes. Are our IT people spending their time in areas that have positive ROI for our business, over the sunk cost of keeping the day-to-day running? 

Oversees relationships with vendors, contractors and service providers 

Are we looking for vendors or partners? This could be a whole topic on it’s own here but quickly, there are two distinct approaches we see here.  Should our goal be to only have one egg per basket, and so split up each need into the simplest commodity, and find the lowest cost provider?  Or should our goal be to find partners who sit on the same side of the table as us, go deeper, understand our business and can drive more value? 

Explains to the other executives the benefits and risks of new IT-related projects 

The CIO collaborates with all the other departments in the company, understanding their needs and goals.  Ensuring the right technology is in place to support them, that IT is seen by all the other department heads as a partner, further enabling their own department's success, and that the changes that are made are the right changes for the entire business. 

Watch now: Who is the Fractional CIO? 

How should our business leverage the CIO?

You need an IT leader that understands your business and technology, strategically. Not a manager or director but the Chief Information Officer (CIO). The CIO needs to be strategically guiding and directing all things technology. Hardware, software, business applications, and services, these all need to work in tandem together for your business, or you end up overspending in people or technology. 

  • The CIO is the one holding recurring monthly IT steering meetings with all functional leaders of the business. Evaluating the existing IT plan against the changing business needs, to ensure they are still the top priorities and identifying new business needs to explore in the future. 
  • The CIO builds the IT plan and quantifies initiatives in business terms. For example, how many hours they could save the business a month, or how much revenue is at risk. 
  • The CIO analyzes how each of the other business functions work, identifying new productivity initiatives to consider that would further support your business plan 
  • The CIO informs you of new risk to the business based on in-depth analysis of your current technology footprint and areas it is outside of IT best practices.  

Every Thriveon client gains a dedicated Fractional Chief Information Officer to lead the IT strategy and plan. Contact us today with questions or to get started on your new IT strategy.  

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