What Is a Chief Information Officer?

Chief Information OfficerIn today’s technology-dependent business world, the chief information officer is a critical player. The highest-ranking information technology professional in the company, a chief information officer is responsible for all of the information technology and computer systems used by the organization.

What Does a Chief Information Officer Do?

When computers first infiltrated the business world, an organization’s top IT person was typically responsible for heading up the department charged with keeping the computers and software running smoothly for employees. According to Businessweek, companies require much more from their IT managers today. With the Internet and social media so integrated into modern life, businesses need their IT departments to smooth the way for interactions with both their employees and their customers. This means chief information officers need to be prepared to tend to their companies’ internal tech needs and to oversee more public facets like websites and customer interfaces. Basically, chief information officers must now understand technology and business and be ready to build bridges between the two fields. They must evaluate the continually evolving opportunities and risks presented by new developments in technology and determine the best strategy for advancing and protecting their companies’ interests.

What Educational Requirements Must a Chief Information Officer Meet?

There are no standard educational requirements for chief information officers. Most professionals who hold this position also hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science, computer and information systems management, IT management or software development. Now that the role of chief information officers has broadened to include technology and business management functions, individuals interested in the chief information officer job are increasingly adding master of business administration degrees to their résumés. Programs that have a technology focus are considered the most valuable.

What Qualities Does a Chief Information Officer Require?

Information Week cites several skills aspiring chief information officers need to cultivate. Business acumen tops its list because today’s IT heads need to understand the challenges a business faces and how technology can impact its bottom line. Flexible tech skills are important as well. With the rapid changes in IT, a comprehensive knowledge of the today’s latest tech is not enough; chief information officers must be ready to evaluate and adapt to tomorrow’s tech. The ability to develop strong business relationships with multiple communities is also critical. In a similar vein, chief information officers can’t hide in their offices. They must interact personably with a wide variety of professionals in order to fulfill their responsibilities. Since chief information officers must translate high-tech concepts into clear English to make technology accessible to their fellow employees, strong communication skills are vital as well. Finally, experience in multiple departments can be helpful for chief information officers because it allows them to better understand and meet the technological needs of the various sections of a company.

What are the Career Prospects for Chief Financial Officers?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median annual wage for top-level executives, including chief information officers, was over $100,000 in 2012. While competition for these top spots in tough, the bureau predicts jobs for chief executives will grow by 11 percent by 2022. Because of the expanding use and rapid evolution of technology, chief information officers may find that they face slightly better career prospects than other top-level executives do. Related Resource: Become a CPA As a company’s top IT person, the chief information officer must maintain the organization’s current technology and be prepared to continually evaluate emerging technologies to determine whether or not they would help the company reach its business goals.