Why The CIO Is Here To Stay

The CIO is here to stay. They are the bridge for customer experience, business priority and technology solution. Most of all, they teach everyone how to think differently, not just to know more.

Joe Woodruff


November 13, 2020

“I know he can get the job, but can he do the job.”

— Joe Banks :: Joe Versus the Volcano

I had a person tell me this week that the role of the CIO will become obsolete, and that the void will be filled by the work of the CTO and CISO. I love CTOs and CISOs, and I have many number as friends and also that I serve within CIO Mastermind.

But the CIO isn’t going anywhere. The title is far more secure than overhead projectors, VHS and New Coke.

The CIO is the architect. (S)he is the one who lives in the world of client experience, business priority and technology solution. As more CIOs are being invited to the table, their role in maintaining connections and envisioning possibility becomes irreplaceable. Many CIOs rose from the ranks, and their earlier jobs were reactionary. Now, CIOs must be visionary. Vision is informed by collective input of executives and stakeholders, and is implemented by integration of internal and external customer needs.

Someone has to keep a pulse on it.

I wrote an article last year countering the chatter that digital transformation was a fad, a buzz- word.  Hello 2020. I don’t mind being proved right.

There are always late adopters. Crisis has a way of energizing adoption. Due to the pandemic, companies have shifted into overdrive to accomplish initiatives that were typically in the “digital transformation” category. It’s the same attitude that has kept the strength of the CIO at bay. Not anymore. Thanks to 2020, doubts about the value of the CIO has been erased. 60% of CIOs say that their influence has increased due to the pandemic.

The CIO is now a top-level expert on the people, processes and platforms needed to serve business priorities and customer expectations. They alone have the ability to translate technology to leaders and the market to technicians. In one person, the CIO is designer, ambassador, translator, strategist and peacekeeper.

The primary reason the CIO is here to stay, though, is that they teach people how to think.

Did you see that coming?

Most of what we call teaching or development is pumping people full of knowledge. Knowledge has its place. But a lot of sources exist that provide increased knowledge. The CIO trains people in how to think with that knowledge.

How? Well, there are several ways, but for our purposes, I give you the one that cements your influence for years to come and keeps your departure in your control: Model it. Think with people, so that they can see how you take information and process it through the lenses of customer experience, business priority and technology ability. This is where mental makeover kicks in: education is not transformation. Learning to think differently is the channel of transformation. Don’t just impart information. Don’t just prove that you know stuff. Give information, ask questions, engage dialogue, and all the time, show people how you take knowledge and shape into wisdom.

The test of your leadership is in the decisions people make apart from you but because of you.

You are the critical difference in the decisions made by executives, stakeholders, peers, teams and customers. Teach them to think as you think, and they will decide as you would have led.

The CIO doesn’t need to prove their worth. Circumstances, challenges and crises do that for you. But you do need to cement your place. A lot of CIOs can get your job, but they can’t do your job, if you realize that job one is helping people to think as you think.


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