Leave the CIO alone

Alternative titles like chief digital officer and chief technology officer muddy the situation and might even dilute authority

My son is a chief technology officer. Some companies have a chief digital officer. Can chief data wrangler be far behind?

What's so bad about being a CIO?

There seems to be a trend to come up with a title to replace "CIO" that encompasses the latest direction of the profession. Titles are reflecting an emphasis on big data, social networking and data analytics.

This doesn't happen with other titles. Take the chief financial officer. I have yet to hear of a CFO becoming the chief mergers officer when the company contemplates its first merger or acquisition. The CFO's role changes to encompass some new duties but that officer remains in charge of finance. And I suspect that most CFOs would not appreciate a change in title every time their role was redefined. And yet, add big data to IT's functions and someone says we need a new title to reflect that. But we really don't. The CIO remains in charge of the enterprise's information and data, big or otherwise.

The constant noise about changing the title of the CIO or creating additional CxOs within IT does nothing more than obfuscate the CIO's role in the corporation, which many fellow CxOs within the enterprise seem to have a hard enough time discerning, even after all these years of CIO leadership of IT. When an enterprise has a CIO, a CTO, a CDO and perhaps even a CSO (chief security officer), a lot of users are going to have no idea whom to talk to about information issues. All those other titles serve to undercut the CIO's authority and legitimacy.

The CIO of today must be comfortable being a business strategist, a technology evaluator and implementer, and a business manager, all rolled into one. But all of these skills are already encompassed in the title chief information officer. Let it be.

Paul Ingevaldson is the former senior vice president of International and Technology for Ace Hardware and author or the book The 9 1/2 Secrets of a Great IT Organization -- Don't Do IT Yourself.

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