Identifying Issues of the Chief Information Officer Role through Qualitative Interviews

Identifying Issues of the Chief Information Officer Role through Qualitative Interviews

M. Gordon Hunter (University of Lethbridge, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/jskd.2011040104
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The role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) is emerging and evolving. This paper presents the results of conducting in-depth qualitative interviews with currently practicing CIOs. The approach taken in the interviews allowed for flexibility within each interview while promoting consistency across a number of interviews. Further, this approach facilitated the designation of management issues related to the CIO role at the unit and corporate levels as well as information technology related issues. Strategic issues were also identified relating to industry, culture, and alignment. It is necessary for both the CIO and senior management to understand and agree on role expectations and interpretations.
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Literature Review

Historically, as organizations’ requirements for information processing grew one senior executive became responsible for managing this resource (Jones & Arnett, 1994). When the position title “Chief Information Officer” emerged (Bock et al., 1986) it was meant to serve as a link between the services available from the information processing function and the major functional areas of the organization. A major reason for the emergence of the role was the necessity to align the approach to managing information processing (Stephens et al., 1992) with the overall strategic direction of the organization (Stephens & Loughman, 1994). It was anticipated that this alignment would contribute to competitive advantage (Earl & Feeny, 1994).

The CIO role has quickly passed through many phases (Andrews & Carlson, 1997) since its emergence in the late 1980s. Initially, the CIO role was responsible for performing the duties of a data processing manager overseeing the centralized computer centre. Then, the CIO role was expanded as a corporate wide resource regarding information technology and its application. Subsequently, the CIO role incorporated more of a business perspective regarding the use of information technology throughout the organization. Eventually, the CIO role involves a combination of information technology technocrat along with a business perspective.

As the CIO role evolved (Arnold, 2001) information technology knowledge remained important but the business perspective took on more importance (Weiss & Anderson, 2004). The strategic application of information technology required the building of relationships with other senior executives. The CIO role has further expanded to include knowledge management and innovation (Newbold & Azua, 2007) as senior executives learned more about the capabilities of information technology. More recently, the CIO role also includes corporate level risk and change management as well as problem solving (Dittmar & Kobel, 2008).

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