What is a CIO and Why Does a Business Need One?

By Brent Pearson

A CIO is the Chief Information Officer of a company.  The “I” for Information is the same “I” for Information in Information Technology (IT).  The CIO is responsible for everything IT related.  Also, the CIO is part of the executive team and is responsible for helping to define the strategy of the company and then implementing and operating all of the technology aspects required to deliver on the strategy.

The CIO needs to be able to switch seamlessly across three different concerns of the business – the current technical issues, operational functions and the strategic roadmap.  Forrester Research describes these roles as being a soldier, a captain and a general all at the same time.

Most every large company has a CIO as a critical role in the business however many small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs)  forgo this important role altogether.  Frequently this is driven by cost concerns.  Fortunately, Fractional CIOs are becoming more common and many IT consulting firms offer a CIO as a Service .  Both roles provide the benefit of having a technology executive available without the same overhead of a full time position, however the distinction is that the Fractional CIO is more integrated with the business strategy while the CIO as A Service is more of a strategic-implementer/problem-solver consultant.

Here are some of the top reasons a small to medium sized business should have a CIO on their team:

  1. Eliminate the recurring technical glitches:  A good CIO will be able to solve the root problem of a system that continually causes interruptions to the business.  If he can’t resolve the issue himself, he will be able to find the right professional and negotiate a fair fee to resolve the issue.
  2. Ensure Business Continuity:  While data backup and security may not be at the forefront of every business owner’s mind, it will always be a top consideration of a good CIO.  This “ounce of prevention” could end up being the difference between a business succeeding or not.
  3. Maintain Confidence of Your Customers:  Having a CIO on the executive team will show customers the commitment to operating a technically functioning business.  Bring your CIO to some sales meetings and see how quickly the conversation can turn to getting things done.
  4. A CEO Needs to Understand the Technology: CEOs need to know how things work without knowing what all the moving pieces are necessarily called.  Clear communication and executive-level appraisals of the technology will always help in making the right decision.
  5. Deliver Innovation: When there is a CIO involved in the executive strategy of the business, he can deliver solutions directly to the customer.  Whether it is better user interface online or a shorter wait time, technical competency will make for a better customer experience.

Those are just some of the reasons that relate to running a business in today’s world.  Each company is unique with its own set of challenges and will have its own set of benefits that can be realized by having a technology executive involved in the business.

About Brent Pearson

Based in Napa, CA, Brent Pearson is founder of Napa Logic an Information Technology (IT) firm specializing in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics.

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