How Technology is Changing the C-Suite (CIO, CDO, CISO)

by | Nov 21, 2022 | IT Workforce

For years, large companies built their leadership models by establishing three executive positions: Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operations Officer (COO), and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The introduction of digital technology in the workplace slowly started to change the traditional executive leadership paradigm with the creation of an executive position called the Chief Information Officer (CIO).

In 2019, a survey of CEOs across many industries revealed that 82 percent of companies have added at least one executive leadership position during the previous five years. In addition to the creation of the CIO executive position, a vast majority of companies also added the executive positions of Chief Data Officer (CDO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).

How Has Technology Changed the Executive Model?

The rapid development of digital technology in the workplace quickly overwhelmed the leadership responsibilities of the original three members of the C-suite: The CEO, COO, and CFO. Executives did not have the technical expertise to address complex information technology issues and thus, the need to add an executive solely responsible for information technology issues became a top priority for companies across all industries.

Once the position of CIO became entrenched in C-suites, the variety of job roles the information technology executive had to assume led to the creation of additional C-suite executive positions that focus on specific areas of a company’s IT platform. Technology advancements changed the role of a CIO from one of juggling several technical responsibilities to overseeing different departments that addressed specific IT issues.

As IT departments continue to adopt more complex platforms, other executive roles might become necessary to relieve the professional burdens placed on the CDO and CISO.

Is My Company Ready to Expand the Number of C-suite Positions?

Although most companies can expect to expand the number of C-suite positions in the future, not every company is ready to add positions today. CEOs have to ask several important questions to determine when the time is right for adding a CIO, and then follow that addition with other executive positions.

As a CEO, you have to define your company’s IT goals. For example, if your company is ready to make the full transition to a cloud data storage platform, then creating the position of CIO makes sense. If your IT platform has experienced a growing number of technical issues over the past few years, then creating the position of CIO can help address the problems to save your company money. One of the driving factors behind creating additional C-suite level positions is the continuing trend of growing sales in overseas markets. Having a CIO on board can help your company build the technical infrastructure required to handle all fulfillment and logistical requirements.

Learn more in How the CIO Can Support the CEO.

How Has the Role of a CIO Changed?

The executive position of the CIO traditionally consisted of addressing technical problems and setting up IT platforms to allow for the growth of online sales. However, the role of a CIO in 2022 and beyond appears to be much more strategic. Although contemporary CIOs must still understand how to address complex technical issues, their shifting leadership role is more about developing a vision for the ever-growing IT department.

CIOs of the future should become the driving force behind the IT department’s technology strategies, not the go-to leader to help solve complex issues that negatively impact IT platforms.

Learn more in CIOs and Digital Transformation: Top 3 Strategic Priorities.

What is the Role of the Chief Data Officer?

Reliving the CIO of harvesting, managing, and analyzing data requires the creation of a new C-suite role called the Chief Data Officer. A CDO oversees the handling of the four elements of data: Governance, innovation, operations, and analytics. Digital data has turned out to be the most important tool a company has to target, reach, convert, and retain loyal customers. Federal laws such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) make it imperative that companies create an executive IT position that assumes many of the responsibilities traditionally carried out by the CIO.

Because the legal consequences of mismanaging data are serious, A CDO provides support to ensure data integrity and security.

What is the Role of the Chief Information Security Officer?

While the CDO is responsible for legally compliant data management, the role of protecting sensitive data now falls on the shoulders of the CISO. The prevalence of cyberattacks, as well as the financial damage done to organizations, requires the creation of a separate executive position that operates outside the traditional responsibilities handled by a CIO. CISOs are responsible for educating team members about the vulnerabilities of sensitive data and in addition, they also must devise strategies to prevent the theft of proprietary information.

Implementing stringent cybersecurity measures is now the full-time job of a CISO.

The Bottom Line: Leadership Skills Still Matter

Although the creation of new C-suite positions focuses on Information technology issues, the executives chosen for the roles must possess outstanding leadership skills. They must be able to define a clear vision, develop steps to achieve the vision, and implement strategies that attract the best talent in the IT industry.

Additional Resources

5 Ways CIOs & CFOs Can Partner for Digital Success

The Traditional and Emerging CIO-CFO Relationship Dynamic

6 Mistakes to Avoid as a New CIO


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