What Does a Chief Information Officer Do? (With Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 21 January 2023

Published 11 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Chief information officers (CIOs) are technology professionals who oversee a company's IT department. They use leadership skills and IT knowledge to ensure that their organisation's software runs efficiently and functions properly. If you're interested in pursuing a technology-related career, learning what a chief information officer does may be useful for you. In this article, we answer the question, "what does a chief information officer do?" and provide a list of steps that you can take to become one.

Related: What Is Software Development: Definition, Processes and Types

What does a chief information officer do?

A chief information officer (CIO) is responsible for managing a company's technology needs. They ensure that a company's software is functional and easy for staff to use, while also checking that their systems maintain the most recent updates and advancements to support the organisation's goals. They often collaborate with various IT professionals within a company to complete projects and improve software and hardware systems.

Here are the duties that a chief information officer carries out:

  • Analyse technology: CIOs analyse a company's technology to find areas of improvement and ensure its systems run efficiently.

  • Oversee IT development: They oversee the development of new technology that can better support the company's needs.

  • Manage IT team members: CIOs oversee a team of IT professionals and are usually the head of the technology department.

  • Negotiate with vendors: CIOs negotiate with vendors and create strategic plans for software design and development.

  • Create standards for IT department: They create technology standards for the IT department to follow that allows them to create functional software. They may also follow industry standards and regulations that relate to software and technology.

Related: What Does a Chief Information Security Officer Do? (With FAQs)

How to become a CIO

To become a CIO, begin by pursuing an education and gaining experience as a technology associate before advancing in your career. Here are the steps that you can take to pursue a career as a CIO:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

To begin your career as a CIO, earn a bachelor's degree in a field that relates to information technology, like computer science, programming or software development. While earning your degree, you can gain knowledge in a variety of IT-related subjects, like computer systems and software programs.

Consider pursuing a technology internship alongside your degree to expand your knowledge of information systems and receive firsthand experience in the field. Completing an internship may also give you valuable skills that you can use while working in an entry-level job after completing your degree. Communicate with the administration team at your educational institution to see if they're aware of any internship opportunities or programs that you can complete.

Related: What Is an Internship: Everything You Need To Know

2. Find a technology position

After completing your degree, gain experience in the field by applying to entry-level IT positions, like an IT associate. Since the CIO is a leadership position, it's important to gain extensive knowledge of IT procedures and protocols so that you can provide guidance to team members once you're in an executive role. While working in entry-level and mid-level positions, seek additional projects, courses or training that help you to develop your leadership skills.

Related: What is a CTO? Your Guide To This Technology Career

3. Pursue certifications

Pursue technology certifications that can set you apart from other professionals in your field, grow your skills and help you achieve advancement in your technology career. A common certification for IT professionals to receive is the CompTIA A+ Certification. This is an internationally recognised certificate that validates your knowledge of a variety of hardware and software systems.

4. Grow your network

Developing your network across multiple IT professions allows you to connect with other experts, advance your career and learn about potential job opportunities. To grow your network, try reaching out to individuals in your educational programs or communicate with colleagues while working in technology positions. You may also join a professional IT community or society, like the Australian Computer Society, to meet individuals in your field.

5. Consider higher education

Most employers prefer CIOs to hold a master's degree in information technology or business administration. Earning your master's degree can advance your skills and offer more in-depth knowledge of specialist areas in the field. Look online to find master's degree programs that fit your needs. Many programs offer in-person and online courses, so you may continue working in your technology position while completing school.

6. Update your resume

Update your resume once you have the required education and experience. Include your highest level of education, certifications and your relevant work history. Emphasise leadership or mentorship experiences you have obtained and the strategic initiatives you led. After updating your resume, search for open CIO positions in your area and identify the positions for which you are most qualified based on your education and experience. Apply with your updated resume and a cover letter that you have customised for each role.

Related: 139 Action Verbs to Make Your Resume Stand Out

CIO skills

Several skills can help CIOs succeed in their role. Here are some skills you may consider developing:

Interpersonal skills

Commonly referred to as “people skills,” these skills include communication, teamwork, flexibility and patience. A CIO uses strong verbal and written communication skills to communicate effectively with executives and members of the IT department. You use active listening skills to listen carefully to what others are telling you and to help them feel valued. A full understanding of the issues that the department is facing helps you to deliver technology that provides solutions to those issues.

Leadership skills

These skills include delegating and empowering others and inspiring a team. CIO roles are typically strategic and rely on frequent delegation of day-to-day duties to other team members. You provide effective leadership by analysing your team's skill set to determine which team members may excel in specific positions. For example, if a team member has excellent analytical skills, you may give them software testing duties to analyse potential issues within a system. As a leader, you make these decisions and ensure they are successful by motivating your team to live up to their potential.

Change management skills

Technology is always changing, so companies adapt to advancements to succeed or face being left behind. CIOs are at the forefront of helping companies to adapt and rely heavily upon change management skills. These skills include managing others' uncertainty, coaching team members, building trust within the organization and being personally resilient.

Strategic planning

These include critical thinking, deductive reasoning, prioritization, creativity and other problem-solving skills. The focus of your roles as a CIO is primarily strategic rather than operational, so you have a mastery of these planning skills. Strategic planning may also help you to prioritise tasks to ensure that you complete projects according to their level of importance.

Related: Deductive Reasoning: Definition and Examples

Technical skills

A CIO has in-depth knowledge of programming and computer systems to evaluate an organisation's system and identify areas of improvement. You are comfortable with technology and continue to refine your skills to stay at the forefront of new, emerging technologies. You consider these technologies and implement them to improve efficiency or otherwise impact the performance of the organisation.

CIO work environment

CIOs work for IT firms, hospitals, finance and insurance companies, large corporations and manufacturing. You typically work in office environments with the following characteristics:

  • sitting at a desk for extended periods

  • using computers, printers, fax machines and other office equipment

  • facilitating communication between IT professionals and executives

CIO job description example

Here is an example of a job description for a CIO position to help you better understand the position's requirements and duties:

Capital River Hotels and Casinos is seeking an experienced chief information officer to join its executive team. This individual will be responsible for developing our information systems strategy and capabilities. They will work closely with our executive team to create strategic plans for the future growth of the organisation and establish goals and objectives for the IT department in support of that growth. The CIO will work closely with the IT director to ensure they allocate resources effectively and use them optimally. They will also analyse the current infrastructure and make any necessary upgrades to ensure it aligns with strategic plans.

We require candidates to have a bachelor's degree in information technology, computer science or another closely related field. We prefer candidates to have a master's degree and experience with major project implementations.

Please note that none of the certifications or companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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