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Current Events: 2021

Job Description for the CIO, 2021 Edition

The CIO role has arguably been around for 40 years this year. Even four decades on, I don’t see many CIO job descriptions that capture the requirements in a way everybody can understand. Too many aspects of the typical CIO job description are written by a technical audience for a technical audience. (Imagine requiring your senior management teams to comprehend this Deloitte white paper.) That’s a problem, because we serve our CEOs, our Boards, and our people. If they don’t have a way of defining what they expect from us, then how can they measure us?

Forty years in, I think it’s possible to define the CIO job in a way everyone can understand. The past 18 months of COVID work have made this possibility eminently clear to me. If I were a CEO or a Board hiring a CIO today, here’s how I would frame the job.

Responsibilities

You understand our business in all of its dimensions — people, processes, and technologies — and you actively address gaps in your understanding as these dimensions change.

You ensure that we react effectively to exigencies that change the shape of our work, enabling us to be the best we can be through the worst of times and the best of times.

You recognize that not all information flows through technology…that people communicating with one another at the right junctures in our processes are what makes our company special and relevant to our customers.

You recognize that for information to be effective, we must understand communication in all of its dimensions: language…visual design…signs and symbols…orality…literacy…context…audience…sociology…psychology…history.

You and your team routinely identify areas for us to differentiate ourselves in the face of the myriad forces that we face, from competition through global cultural change.

You help us comprehend the complex technological world around us, from identifying B.S. to translating things to human terms…from communicating risks to crafting opportunities.

You protect us from technology-borne threats.

You coach and condition our technologists to be great listeners and empathizers, so that they can bring us solutions that meet our needs.

You “manage up” to challenge our CEO and our Board when you develop a sense that a new way of working will be better than the status quo.

You provide leadership and comfort to our associates on any journey in which we face the unknown, helping us take steps forward, even when we might exhibit fear.

You nurture a team of people with an aim to help them do all the above.

Qualifications

A career of experiences that provides demonstrable ability to perform all these responsibilities exceedingly well.

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