History of the CIO Role: A Brief Look From the Past

What is the history of the CIO role that a lot of us know today? How did it come to be the vital role that it is in today’s modern world?

The CIO is a vital role to fill to ensure a company’s survival in this very techy world. And this role is always changing.

Also, they are the ones that will ensure the company grows. And that is with the aid of the digital transformation efforts under their lead.

But before this became vital, let us take a look at what the CIO was like before.

History of the CIO Role

Today’s COIs have a lot of roles to fulfill. Among these things are:

  • business strategists
  • information architects
  • enterprise systems leaders
  • contract negotiators
  • engaging in public relations
  • financial planning

But all these roles are a lot different from what its original goal was. CIOs were only to make policies and manage the data processing procedures.

In 1981, the term “chief information officer” was first used. It was in William Synnott and William Gruber’s book.

They viewed this role as always changing because of the rise of many technologies. 

Let us take a look at three different eras in which this role adapted to.

CIO in the Mainframe Era

The mainframe era spans from the 1960s to the early 1980s. This is where mainframe computers were the thing. And its role was to lessen the company’s clerical load.

So, this era was accounting-related most of the time and IBM ruled the game. But this also means the information managers, the CIOs before, lacked imagination.

Also, the role they played was unclear. They did not have clear job expectations and companies saw projects with low ROI.

The CIOs were also hired not only for their technical skills but to manage budgets. As well as projects and subordinates without receiving the respect they deserve.

CIO in the Distributed Era

The distributed era started in the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. This is where personal computers were born along with a wider reach in many companies.

So, technology can aid in more areas. It can collect and analyze information to support decision making. Thus, making it into a competitive advantage and not only a simple tool.

This is why Synnot and Gruber coined the CIO. And viewed them to be the answer to the rise in technology and made them take on more new roles.

Thus, this role came to follow and promote technology strategies for executives. They also learned to become organizational designers, tech advisors, and tech architects. And above all, informed buyers.

CIO in the Web Era

The web era started in the mid-1990s and continues until now. This is where the use of networks and the web rose and become common.

By now, IT is vital for an organization to survive and companies embraced e-commerce. So, CIOs need to add even more skills to their plate.

And now, CIOs need to drive a successful digital transformation for its company. While at the same time, fulfilling his other roles. And making sure this journey aligns with the company’s business goals.

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