The evolving role of the CIO: from the 80s to the AI era

Emilien Coquard
3 min readMar 15, 2024

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) may be a (relatively) recent addition to organisational structures, but its impact has been profound.

And its significance is growing.

Today, CIOs are more than just IT operators. They’re business leaders who drive competitive advantage to businesses and make strategic decisions, such as setting up an offshore development centre to scale dev teams with elite talent.

In this article, we’ll discuss the evolving role of the CIO from its early days to its crucial impact on an AI-driven future. After reading it, you’ll know the CIO’s role timeline, the challenges they face, and the qualities a modern CIO should possess.

Let’s get started!

What is a CIO?

A CIO is the C-level executive responsible for overseeing the selection, construction, deployment, monitoring, and maintenance of IT assets in an organisation.

CIOs typically occupy the highest tech leadership role in a company’s hierarchy. Over the past decades, their role has become essential, so they now manage functions beyond IT.

The term ‘CIO’ was first coined in 1981 in the book Information Resource Management by William R. Synnott, former Senior Vice President of Bank of Boston, and William H. Gruber, a former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The changing role of the CIO over the years

The CIO’s responsibilities have evolved from the 1980s to today, strengthening its position as a key player in companies of all sizes and industries.

CIOs in the 1980s

Before the 80s, CIOs didn’t exist. There were only IT managers.

Once the role was officially born, CIOs were considered company tech experts, handling IT infrastructure during a time when computing was centralised.

CIOs in the 1990s

In the 90s, CIOs became big players in business strategy.

With more decentralised IT, they focused on streamlining processes and making efficient information systems for global operations.

CIOs in the 2000s

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and social information systems dominated the 2000s.

CIOs evolved to implement communication-enhancing systems and engage in strategic conversations with vendors. The focus expanded from information systems to encompass broader business solutions.

CIOS in the 2010s

In the 2010s, CIOs became “technology architects”, understanding the organisation’s holistic structure amid the rise of agile, distributed teams, and cloud computing.

CIOs in the 2020s (and the upcoming AI era)

Today, CIOs are dealing with hefty workloads.

Among other responsibilities, they ensure IT works well, keep data transparent, plan digital changes, build world-class tech teams, encourage innovation, and handle cybersecurity.

Plus, with the AI boom, they are expected to establish a roadmap to help their organisations navigate the new tech revolution.

The 3 critical CIO challenges today

Now that we’ve discussed the evolving role of the CIO in the past decades, it’s time to talk about the main challenges these tech leaders face (and will face) in the coming years.

Securing top talent

Finding, building, and nurturing a high-performing tech team is integral to the success of any modern CIO. It involves identifying and recruiting individuals with the right technical expertise and soft skills required to collaborate effectively within the organisation.

However, the worrying tech talent scarcity in Western countries has turned what once was an exciting task into a daunting one.

The skill shortage in the UK and other Western countries is making CIOs turn their heads overseas to search for talent they can’t find at home. While offshoring has been an excellent solution to scarcity for years, its popularity has grown and will continue to do so.

Especially with the rise of a modern approach to offshoring known as Offshoring 2.0.

Read the full article at :