Are CIO jobs more difficult today ?


No – it is not more difficult or more risky compared to what past CIOs had to do . Every time I see articles and tweets that seem to indicate otherwise , I cringe .

Dealing with business problems has always been on CIO agenda – it is not something that came up yesterday . Good CIOs have always dealt with CXOs – the excellent ones have always dealt with users too . In 90s – when ERP was the “innovation” thing to do , CIOs led the charge . They had to take big risks with unknown software for the benefit of the business . They had to agree to customize off the shelf software knowing that business needed it and hence the price to pay in future is justified . In many cases they convinced colleagues to change business processes to suit what is available off the shelf in ERP systems .
I have sat in several such meetings – it wasn’t pretty , but CIOs of big and small companies did that .

In the 2000s, they had to find ways to reduce cost and figure out working partnerships with outsourcing firms . In most cases they had to deal with a loss of their power and authority and yet they did that . They had to fire people that they knew for decades – and they did that to save their business . They invested in BI systems knowing more or less for sure that it is a journey and not a destination . They jumped into the exciting world of Internet knowing well that there are big risks .

And in 2010s – they have to deal with CMOs with more budget , cloud vendors who bypass them and go to business side directly , in-memory and NOSQL vendors who want to displace incumbent RDBMS vendors and so on . Is that difficult and risky ? Yes . Is it MORE difficult and risky than what previous generation had to deal with ? Hardly ! It’s just different .

The one thing that is becoming more common these days is that executives from business side are now taking on a CIO job for some time to check the box on their way to bigger and better things . This has many advantages for sure – but it has one disadvantage that I have now seen a few times . When a sales leader does well in West – she gets a shot at maybe running all of North America , or go run marketing for a change . But when a Sales VP goes on a CIO tour of duty and does well in that job – he risks getting stuck there for more time than he signed up for . And for some – it becomes a dead end job . That is the part that is riskier and harder for the CIOs these days than the ones in the past – in my experience .

Ok – I am getting back to vacation mode !

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One thought on “Are CIO jobs more difficult today ?

  1. “Is it MORE difficult and risky than what previous generation had to deal with ? Hardly ! It’s just different”
    => sure it’s different. though it looks tad more disadvantageous than before. Since now, CIO’s own role is disadvantaged.
    CIOs are then seen less as enabler of business, and more as optimized executor of IT needs.
    any silverlinings?

    ps: I like the crisp summary of CIO focus over ’90s, ‘2k, & 2010s..

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