The specific word represented by the middle letter in a CXO job is typically well-established and hasn’t changed in years, often decades. CEO immediately brings to mind a company’s top executive. Everyone acknowledges the COO is responsible for operations and the CFO manages the company’s finances. But how about the “I” in CIO? Several years ago, the notion of the CIO as the Chief Integration Officer began making the rounds, and Ron Gurrier, CIO of Farmers Insurance, discussed the CIIIO (Information, Integration, and Inspiration Officer) in his article “From CIO to CIIIO-Being Chief Information Officer is No Longer Enough.” But most CIOs, both inside and beyond the aerospace industry, have a whole bunch of “I’s” on which we need to focus, and a whole lot of eyes focused on us!
I is for Information – No doubt, the traditional definition is still extremely important. CIOs are responsible for ensuring customers can create, analyze, store, share, locate, exploit, and transform information. Protecting and preserving information will always be a key accountability as well.
I is for Innovation – As Chief Innovation Officers, we are constantly seeking the best way to improve organizational capabilities. Applied correctly, information technology is a key force-multiplier for knowledge workers, and information exchange typically fuels innovation. We have seen how technical and cloud computing can help engineers solve difficult problems at increasing scales. We have also seen how machine learning can find hidden correlations and make it easier for our customers to find the knowledge they need. Automation can eliminate manual work, reduce bureaucracy, and free up staff to work on more important and creative problems.
I is for Infrastructure – We are accountable for the operation of hardware and software infrastructures, whether on-site or in the cloud: networks, servers, storage, applications, databases, mobile devices, and information security. Beyond this, CIOs are accountable for making sure this infrastructure is reliable, robust, and operates at enterprise scale—such that everything “just works” and our customers never have to think about these concerns. (In that sense, we are also Chief Invisibility Officers!)
I is for Identity – CIOs today own identity management for their organizations, which integrates all our services. Identity management is the key to security. We’re accountable for ensuring that we know who is accessing our networks, systems, and data—and making sure that everyone is who they say they are! Identity management is also a way to improve the user experience—the nirvana of universal single sign-on is a goal of every CIO and, like most things, tantalizingly just out of reach.