Chief Information Officer (CIO) Job Description: Skills, Responsibilities, Salary, and Trends

A chief information officer’s (CIO) job description is multi-faceted, as CIOs have become a staple in C-level management to oversee a company’s technology operations.

What is a chief information officer (CIO)?

A chief information officer (CIO) is the most senior IT executive in a company who serves as top IT strategist. A CIO has a solid understanding of a company’s entire IT infrastructure and communicates tech needs, goals, and decisions to non-tech related stakeholders. 

A chief information officer is different from a chief technology officer (CTO) to the extent that the former works with internal IT strategy, while the latter develops customer-facing IT strategy. A chief information officer is also different from a chief information security officer to the extent that a CIO is responsible for a broader scope of tech-related concerns in the company. A CISO, on the other hand, focuses on securing a company’s technology infrastructure from threats and breaches.

Read more: CIO vs CISO: What are the 5 Big Differences?

What does a CIO do?  

A CIO directs a company’s IT strategy to ensure that it aligns with company goals. This means that they handle high-level issues, such as data privacy and strategic tech initiatives. As such, a chief information officer continuously assesses tech-related policies and procedures and implements new ones.  

More specifically, a chief information officer ensures that a company’s employees have the most effective, efficient, and up-to-date tech to support everyday operations. A CIO also works with third-party vendors to secure the right tech to meet company needs. 

Other responsibilities include:

  • Influencing overall business strategy
  • Developing security protocols to protect company data from internal and external threats (if there’s no CISO to do this)
  • Managing budgets related to IT initiatives
  • Designing connectivity infrastructure that supports remote access
  • Hiring additional staff members when necessary

Also read: Choosing Between CIO vs IT Manager

What is the average CIO salary?

The average annual salary for CIOs in the United States ranges anywhere from $109,591 to $224,581 with the top paying cities being Lakes, AK; San Francisco, CA; and Santa Clara, CA.

What skills are necessary to become a CIO?

Most of the skills that are necessary to become a CIO come with experience. Since a CIO’s responsibilities include spearheading tech-related initiatives and their implementation, project management and budgeting are valuable skills to acquire. CIOs are also quite tech savvy, so having some experience with enterprise software development, data warehouse architectures, and specific software like SAP is a major plus. 

The executive who oversees the company’s tech operations must be able to streamline business with technology. As such, analytical skills and experience with business intelligence tools are a must to become a CIO in order to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency across the company’s entire tech stack. In addition, a CIO must be an effective communicator to convey IT-related issues to non-tech stakeholders, such as other leaders in the C-suite.

Current job prospects for CIOs

The digital transformation that companies have been undertaking, especially since the start of the pandemic, has exponentially increased the demand for hiring CIOs to steer a company’s tech strategy. As a case in point, there are currently over 18,000 job postings for CIOs on LinkedIn.

The increasingly popular Virtual CIO role essentially works for companies on a contractual basis. Though LinkedIn currently shows just over 1,000 job postings for this role, it’s an emerging trend within the CIO profession that may continue to grow in the coming years.

Also read: What Are CIOs Looking For in Current IT Grads?

Current challenges, trends for CIOs

The role of CIO is ever-evolving and poses challenges, yet also exciting opportunities for current and prospective CIOs.

AI and ML remain critical

CIOs increasingly rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to make data-driven decisions. Predictive analytics helps CIOs stay ahead of the curve when planning long-term IT strategy. CIOs are also realizing the necessity for AI governance and transparency to ensure its ethical use to combat inherent biases.

Cloud complexity 

The increasingly complex nature of cloud architecture has become a challenge for CIOs to keep track of. Simplification of such cloud architectures is therefore becoming a priority for today’s CIOs. This means using the same data without needing to transfer it back and forth for various purposes between different devices, clouds, and locations. 

Sustainability

Climate concerns, their impacts on a company’s technology, and in turn, the company’s tech effect on the climate are increasingly falling under the purview of the CIO. CIOs are therefore investigating and investing in initiatives that reduce the company’s carbon footprint, for example, in data centers’ energy consumption.

Strategic influence

Technology is now the driving force for today’s organizations, arguably more than the business mission itself. CIOs are therefore working more closely with CEOs than ever before. In fact, they’re collaborating with the CEO more than any of the other C-suite executives.

Given the ubiquity of work-from-home and hybrid work models and the tech needs that they precipitate, chief information officers will continue to play an integral role in a company’s operations. On a higher level, chief information officers will continue to play a key role alongside the CEO in navigating the constantly evolving tech landscape and steering the company on a path of smarter digital prowess. 

Read next: The Future of IT is Hybrid: Four Tips for CIOS to Find Success

This article was originally published by David Weldon on October 7, 2015. It was updated on March 23, 2022 by Lauren Hansen.

Lauren Hansen
Lauren Hansen
Lauren Hansen is a writer for TechnologyAdvice, covering IT strategy and trends, enterprise networking, and PM software for CIOInsight.com, enterprisenetworkingplanet.com, project-management.com, and technologyadvice.com. When she's not writing about technology trends, she's working out or spending time with family.

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