CIO: The Worst Job Title

David Wagner, Managing Editor | 11/12/2013 | 49 comments

David Wagner
If words have power to shape our reality (and I think they do), it might be time to re-think the title of CIO. In fact, it might be time to re-think the names of all the major c-suite jobs.

To begin with, I should say I came to this conclusion after reading Ludo Van der Heyden’s convincing article in the Harvard Business Review about why the CEO title is bad for CEOs. Van der Heyden makes the convincing case that if the CEO starts acting on the “executive” part of his name, he is probably about to lose his job because he’s already lost control of his priorities.

Van der Heyden says there are six major aspects to leadership: visioning, planning, deciding, explaining, executing, and evaluating. What CEOs were “worst at,” according to surveys of upper management, was deciding and explaining. What upper management craved most from CEOs was that they make key decisions, explain the reasoning behind the decision, and then back off to let them execute.

The problem, as Van der Heyden sees it, is that the language of the title grounds the way CEOs behave in ways that miss the point. He prefers Chief Decision Officer.

How does this apply to the CIO? Van der Heyden doesn’t go into it, but I think we can look at the six major aspects of leadership and see where the CIO fits in.

Let’s take a look at each of Van der Hayden’s six functions of a leader:

Visioning -- In the early days of IT, you’d have never put visioning high on the list of needs for a CIO. Even though technology has reshaped the business from the beginning, the 80-20 concept of IT kept it firmly out of the visionary realm.

But now that the 80-20 paradigm has been broken, the CIO's job is squarely around seeing how technology can bring new value to the business. More than anyone, the CIO is in a position to create a vision for the technological future of the company that can lead to new business opportunities.

Planning -- Certainly, every executive needs to plan, but I think we can all agree that the COO and CFO are more of the “planners” for the enterprise as a whole.

Deciding -- We’ve already established that the CEO is the chief decider. Certainly, the CIO is making plenty of decisions, but for the enterprise as a whole, the CEO needs to be the one.

Explaining -- Again, CIOs need to explain to their directors just like CEOs need to explain to the management team. But the ultimate onus to describe the company’s vision and course falls on the CEO.

Executing -- This used to be squarely the role of the CIO. The old CIO’s mantra was “keep the lights on.” We know that keeping the lights on now is just the table stakes to get into the game. And CIOs need to rely on directors for an increasing share of the execution work.

Evaluating -- Here’s the other area where the CIO can make the largest impact. Through the introduction of data and metrics, the CIO is an integral part of the evaluation process. But the CIO is more of an enabler of evaluation than the chief evaluator.

So if the CEO should be Chief Deciding Officer, what should the CIO be? In my opinion, the Chief Vision Officer has the right ring to it, and it also best describes the job in the decades to come.

The 21st century CIO or CVO needs to show how technology can create possibilities for the CEO they could never dream of alone. The successful CIO sees how technology fits into a larger vision of the company. Whether it is how big data can lead to new business or how mobility will lead to new ways to engage the customer, the CIO is better placed than anyone to see beyond the horizon line for a company and how technology will change it.

There are predictions the CIO will soon be extinct because of their inability to cope with shadow IT, digital natives, and a business that sees them as a drag. CIOs that are thriving aren’t actually acting like CIOs used to act. Maybe it really is time to give them a new name to reflect the role the good ones are playing. CVO seems like a good place to start.

What do you think? Do words matter? Does CVO better reflect the job of the CIO? What would you call the CIO if you could rename it? Comment below.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 5   >   >>
The_Phil   CIO: The Worst Job Title   12/14/2013 2:56:07 PM
Re: My issue with the title CIO
Nope, not the solution. The best answer is that 'it's not about you, it's about the customer'.

Always keeping that in mind is what gets you out of these ruts, as I call them.
David Wagner   CIO: The Worst Job Title   12/4/2013 2:50:20 PM
Re: My issue with the title CIO
@the_Phil- Good recovery. I can say I've worked with people who would have just stopped going on vacation instead.
tekedge   CIO: The Worst Job Title   11/30/2013 11:15:38 PM
CIO the worst job title
A CIO with any other name is a CIO ultimately as we are creatures of habit. yes their job roles have changed and I think the awareness of their importance has to be emphasized !Once it is realised that they are acting as visionaries where business opportunities lies for the organisation it will not matter what designation we give them
The_Phil   CIO: The Worst Job Title   11/30/2013 11:19:04 AM
Re: My issue with the title CIO
I know that VERY well. As a business owner, I ran into that same issue. Went on vaca & customer's were breaking down our virtual doors because no one else in house knew how to do what I did on a day-to-day basis. I was an eye-opener.

So I changed it up & trained & diagramed everything I did so others could follow in my absense. It helped a TON, believe me.
Susan Nunziata   CIO: The Worst Job Title   11/27/2013 2:45:04 PM
Re: My issue with the title CIO
@David: It would have to be a truly evolved organization in order to make something like that work, I agree. And it seems the bigger the organization, the tougher it gets. 
David Wagner   CIO: The Worst Job Title   11/27/2013 1:13:30 AM
Re: My issue with the title CIO
@Sara- Yeah, that seems like a bad situation. Seems like only a really small company can afford to have stuff like that happen. And maybe in some ways they're the least able to let it happen.
David Wagner   CIO: The Worst Job Title   11/27/2013 1:11:44 AM
Re: Words always matter
@kstaron- Thanks. Too bad my mother called me a loser my whole life. :)

Seriously, one question. Let's say we changed the names tomorrow. How long do you think the mental change would take? I think that's the hardest part to figure out.
Sara Peters   CIO: The Worst Job Title   11/26/2013 3:46:49 PM
Re: My issue with the title CIO
@The_Phil   "THat's what all C-levels are supposed to do. EMpower their direct reports to do what's needed in an efficient manner. Otherwise, they'll be DOING the work & not leading, as they're appointed to do."  I was just having a conversation about this yesterday. A VP of IT went on vacation and one very specific manual activity couldn't be done, because he'd said it was too complicated to do and had therefore not trained anyone to do it in his absence. To me that says that the person is underestimating his staff, being unwilling to delegate, to the detriment of the company. And possibly upsetting his team too, for not trusting them.
kstaron   CIO: The Worst Job Title   11/26/2013 2:34:33 PM
Words always matter
Words do matter, because they infiltrate how we think of what we've labeled it with. It's why your momther didn't want you to call people names. Just like bad name calling can affect how people act and react, a job title can do the same thing. A fundamental shift in how we view the C suite, and the proper renaiming ocould help everyone understand how to better do their jobs and how others view those in the position.
Technocrat   CIO: The Worst Job Title   11/17/2013 10:44:35 PM
Re: My issue with the title CIO
@David    Yeah, that's probably it !  : )
Page 1 / 5   >   >>

The blogs and comments posted on do not reflect the views of TechWeb,, or its sponsors., TechWeb, and its sponsors do not assume responsibility for any comments, claims, or opinions made by authors and bloggers. They are no substitute for your own research and should not be relied upon for trading or any other purpose.

More Blogs from David Wagner
David Wagner   5/30/2014   21 comments
For almost three and a half years I have had the pleasure and real privilege to write the Geekend for you every Friday. Fortunately, that privilege isn't ending, it is just moving to our ...
David Wagner   5/23/2014   69 comments
Most of us have gone through the pain of losing a beloved pet. Maybe you lived a long and happy life together, and it died peacefully. Maybe it was tragically struck down by a car or a ...
David Wagner   5/22/2014   47 comments
It is a rare thing when you find me advocating for the government to get more involved in regulating technology, but when it comes to the Internet of Things, that is what I'm advocating. ...
David Wagner   5/21/2014   13 comments
E2 has long trumpeted the days when 3D printers would sit on our desks and print prototypes, consumer goods, and even body parts right from our desk, but a new cloud manufacturing company ...
David Wagner   5/16/2014   40 comments
With Disney's success with the Avengers franchise, geeks everywhere are being treated to an outrageously large number of TV shows and movies based on comic book superhero characters. For ...
Latest Archived Broadcast
We talk with Bernard Golden about accelerating application delivery in the cloud.
On-demand Video with Chat
Register for this video discussion to learn how tablets can provide true business usability and productivity.
E2 IT Migration Zones
IT Migration Zone - UK
Why PowerShell Is Important
Reduce the Windows 8 Footprint for VDI
Rethinking Storage Management
IT Migration Zone - FR
SQL Server : 240 To de mémoire flash pour votre data warehouse
Quand Office vient booster les revenus Cloud et Android de Microsoft
Windows Phone : Nokia veut davantage d'applications (et les utilisateurs aussi)
IT Migration Zone - DE
Cloud Computing: Warum Unternehmen trotz NSA auf die „private“ Wolke setzen sollten
Cloud Computing bleibt Wachstumsmarkt – Windows Azure ist Vorreiter
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Enterprise Efficiency Twitter Feed
Site Moderators Wanted
Enterprise Efficiency is looking for engaged readers to moderate the message boards on this site. Engage in high-IQ conversations with IT industry leaders; earn kudos and perks. Interested? E-mail:
Dell's Efficiency Modeling Tool
The major problem facing the CIO is how to measure the effectiveness of the IT department. Learn how Dell’s Efficiency Modeling Tool gives the CIO two clear, powerful numbers: Efficiency Quotient and Impact Quotient. These numbers can be transforma¬tive not only to the department, but to the entire enterprise.

Read the full report
The State of Enterprise Efficiency in the Virtual Era: Virtualization – Smart Approaches to Maximize Gains
Virtualization is a presence in nearly all enterprise data centers. But not all companies are using it to its best effect. Learn the common characteristics of success, what barriers companies face, and how to get the most from your efforts.

Read the full report
Informed CIO: Dollars & Sense: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Cut through the VDI hype and get the full picture -- including ROI and the impact on your Data Center -- to make an informed decision about your virtual desktop infrastructure deployments.

Read the full report
A Video Case Study – Translational Genomics Research Institute
e2 Video

On the Case
TGen IT: Where We're Going Next

7|11|12   |   08:12   |   10 comments

Now that TGen has broken new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions, the company discusses what will come next for it and for personalized medicine.
On the Case
Better Care Through Better Communications

6|6|12   |   02:24   |   11 comments

The achievements of the TGen/Dell project could improve how all people receive healthcare, because they are creating ways to improve end-to-end communication of medical data.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Are Now

5|15|12   |   06:58   |   6 comments

TGen is breaking new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Were

4|27|12   |   06:45   |   10 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute wanted to save lives, but its efforts were hobbled by immense computing challenges related to collecting, processing, sharing, and storing enormous amounts of data.
On the Case
1,200% Faster

4|18|12   |   02:27   |   12 comments

Through their partnership, Dell and TGen have increased the speed of TGen’s medical research by 1,200 percent.
On the Case
IT May Improve Children's Chances of Survival

4|17|12   |   02:12   |   8 comments

IT is helping medical researchers reach breakthroughs in a way and pace never seen before.
On the Case
Medical Advances in the Cloud

4|10|12   |   1:25   |   5 comments

TGen and Dell are pushing the boundaries of computing, and harnessing the power of the cloud to improve healthcare.
On the Case
TGen: Living the Mission

4|9|12   |   2:25   |   3 comments

TGen's CIO puts the organizational mission at the heart of everything the IT staff does.
On the Case
TGen Speeding Up Biomedical Research to Save More Lives

4|5|12   |   1:59   |   6 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute is revamping its computing to improve speed, storage, and collaboration – and, most importantly, to save lives.
On the Case
Computing Power Helping to Save Children's Lives

3|28|12   |   2:13   |   3 comments

The Translational Genomics Institute’s partnership with Dell is enabling them to treat kids with neuroblastoma more quickly and save more lives.
Tom Nolle
The Big Reason to Use Office

3|18|14   |   02:24   |   46 comments

Office and personal productivity tools come in a first-class and coach flavor set, but what makes the difference is primarily little things that most users won't encounter. What's the big issue in using something other than Office, and can you get around it?
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Mobile Security — A Use Case

3|4|14   |   04:27   |   16 comments

New mobile security solutions can accommodate a wide array of needs, including those of a complex university environment.
Tom Nolle
Killing Net Neutrality Might Save You Money

1|16|14   |   2:13   |   16 comments

The DC Court of Appeals voided most of the Neutrality Order, and whatever it might mean for the Internet overall, it might mean better and cheaper Internet VPNs for businesses.
Tom Nolle
The Internet of Everythinguseful

1|10|14   |   2:18   |   19 comments

We really don't want an "Internet of Everything" but even building an Internet of Everythinguseful means setting some ground rules to insure there's value in the process and that costs and risks are minimized.
Tom Nolle
Maturing Google Chrome

12|30|13   |   2.18   |   25 comments

Google's Chrome OS has a lot of potential value and a lot of recent press, but it still needs something to make it more than a thin client. It needs cloud integration, it needs extended APIs via web services, and it needs to suck it up and support a hard drive.
Sara Peters
No More Cookie-Cutter IT

12|23|13   |   03.58   |   21 comments

Creating the right combination of technology, people, and processes for your IT organization is a lot like baking Christmas cookies.
Sara Peters
Smart Wigs Not a Smart Idea

12|5|13   |   3:01   |   46 comments

Sony is seeking a patent for wigs that contain computing devices.
Tom Nolle
Cloud in the Wild

12|4|13   |   02:23   |   15 comments

On a recent African trip I saw examples of the value of the cloud in developing nations, for educational and community development programs. We could build on this, but not only in developing economies, because these same programs are often under-supported even in first-world countries.
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Is Malware Evading Your IPS?

11|18|13   |   03:16   |   4 comments

Intrusion prevention software is supposed to detect and block malware intrusions, but clever malware authors can evade your IPS in these five main ways.
Sara Peters
Where Have All the Mentors Gone?

9|27|13   |   3:15   |   38 comments

A good professional mentor can change your life for the better... but where do you find one?
Tom Nolle
SDN Wars & You Could Win

9|17|13   |   2:10   |   5 comments

VMware's debate with Cisco on SDN might finally create a fusion between an SDN view that's all about software and another that's all about network equipment. That would be good for every enterprise considering the cloud and SDN.
Ivan Schneider
The Future of the Smart Watch

9|12|13   |   3:19   |   39 comments

Wearing a bulky, oversized watch is good training for the next phase in wristwatches: the Internet-enabled, connected watch. Why the smartphone-tethered connected watch makes sense, plus Ivan demos an entirely new concept for the "smart watch."
Tom Nolle
Cutting Your Cloud Storage Costs

9|4|13   |   2:06   |   3 comments

Cloud storage costs are determined primarily by the rate at which files are changed and the possibility of concurrent access/update. If you can structure your storage use to optimize these factors you can cut costs, perhaps to zero.
Sara Peters
Do CIOs Need an IT Background?

8|29|13   |   2:11   |   23 comments

Most of the CIOs interviewed in the How to Become a CIO series did not start their careers as IT professionals. So is an IT background essential?
Ivan Schneider
The Internet Loves Birthdays

8|27|13   |   3:25   |   69 comments

The Internet has evolved into a machine for drumming up a chorus of "Happy Birthday" messages, from family, friends, friends of friends who you added on Facebook, random people that you circled on G+, and increasingly, automated bots. Enough already.