8 CIO archetypes: What kind of IT leader are you?

From order taker to business leader, CIO responsibilities vary widely. Learn what role you currently play and how to break that mold in service of improved business value and career growth.

8 CIO archetypes: What kind of IT leader are you?
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8 CIO archetypes: What kind of IT leader are you?

Global business disruption is quickening the evolutionary timeline of the CIO role. Market dynamics are forcing IT leaders to extend beyond taking orders and delivering sustainable IT systems to massaging digital strategies and driving business outcomes.

At least, that's the level many CIOs are aspiring to reach. The reality is that 44 percent of CIOs are neither actively involved in developing nor executing their organization’s digital strategy, according to Deloitte’s 2018 Global CIO Survey, which polled 1,116 CIOs and 321 CXOs.

Each enterprise has its own vision for the responsibilities of its IT leadership. Some companies value a CIO who can maintain stable IT; others expect IT leaders to do that plus deliver a digital transformation.

But with technology touching all facets of the business, some CIOs wear multiple hats along the continuum. Leaning on research culled from Deloitte, KPMG, Gartner and others, CIO.com takes a look at the most common CIO archetypes.

What kind CIO are you and to what role do you aspire to help your enterprise achieve the business outcomes it desires? In the digital era, you'd better figure that out or another CIO (or CDO) will figure it out for you.

Trusted operator
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Trusted operator

If you are focusing on IT efficiency, reliability, and cost containment, you are part of the 55 percent of CIOs who are considered “trusted operators,” according to Deloitte. This is your classic, keep-the-lights-on role. IDG's 2016 State of the CIO study defined operators as "functional" CIOs who spend time managing expenses, security and IT crises, and improving IT operations. Forbes calls such CIOs “plumbers.” But here's the bad news for all you smooth, functional operators: Deloitte says this role will become obsolete as its duties become table stakes for IT leadership. If you find yourself getting further cornered into this role, it may be time to initiate projects geared toward innovation or business growth. For tips, see “6 secrets of highly innovative CIOs” and “6 secrets of revenue-generating CIOs.”

Business co-creator
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Business co-creator

If you are driving and enabling growth through the execution of business strategy, then you are among the 36 percent of CIOs that Deloitte has defined “business co-creators.” Those are the CIOs who always talk about the importance of "partnering with the business to drive value"? These folks are likely co-creators bent on aligning themselves with the business needs. A good spot to be in, but beware: The rules of IT-business alignment are shifting.

Broker
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Broker

Broker CIOs are co-creators who effectively engage the business to shape demand and outcomes. But they also leverage emerging technologies o drive innovation, including promoting and managing a solutions portfolio, according to KPMG principal and CIO Advisory lead Denis Berry, who views brokers as key cogs in an new IT operating model. Such CIOs, who help sales, HR and other departments select and negotiate software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, also explore new positions and skills required in the IT function and how some current IT positions need to evolve, reduce or even be eliminated. For more on succeeding in the broker role, see “Modernizing IT: How to thrive as a CIO ‘value broker.’”

Integrator
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Integrator

CIOs who spend a lot of their time weaving together platforms often joke that they are really "chief integration officers." These integrators implement new, open architecture, leveraging a center of excellence. The reason? "Sustainable competitive advantage and business value come when the front, middle, and back offices work together for a truly digital enterprise," Berry wrote.

Orchestrator
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Orchestrator

If you are building and managing user services, managing vendor relationships, protecting the enterprise and monitoring service delivery, you are likely fulfilling a CIO orchestrator role. The orchestration performed in this role is done ideally to provide optimal value to the business, KPMG says. But the role can be complex, as orchestrators tend to juggle a lot of balls in a lot of domains to provide that business value.

Change instigator
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Change instigator

This CIO takes the lead on tech-enabled business transformation, according to Deloitte. Instigators, which account for only 9 percent of CIOs, also focus on emerging technologies and supporting business strategy. In its annual CIO report, IDG views such CIOs as “transformational” IT leaders. For tips on thriving in this role, see “CIO change agents: The art of the IT turnaround” and “7 habits of highly effective digital leaders.”

CIO plus
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CIO plus

Well before CIOs became change instigators they evolved to become “CIO pluses," a term coined by George Westerman and Richard Hunter in their 2009 book, The Real Business of IT: How CIOs Create and Communicate Value. The CIO plus is a CIO who has taken on additional responsibilities, which could include other roles. CIOs who tacked on responsibilities such as chief innovation officer, CTO or product development and logistics are among those identified as pluses.

As digital becomes increasingly woven into the fabric of the business, more CIO pluses are adding chief digital officer to their title. Akash Khurana, CIO and CDO of construction firm McDermott International, said his role has shifted from stabilizing the IT function to being a “digital transformer,” enabling him to open new channels for the company.

"As a technology team, we’re having discussions with customers that we’ve never had before — strategic, valued discussions rather than solely focusing on the stabilization and optimization of our function,” Khurana told Gartner for its 2018 CIO Agenda report.

Vanguard
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Vanguard

The CIO plus and change instigators give way to the digital vanguard CIO, which Deloitte says both masters digital and is perceived by the rest of the business as a market leader in driving emerging digital technologies. The vanguard CIO, who juggles back-office and front-office technology to facilitate digital transformation, are ahead of most CIOs on emerging technologies and innovation, and serve as beacons for what the future of business may hold. Deloitte pegs vanguards at 10 percent of current CIOs. For more on making this transition, see “How to break the CIO mold — and become a business leader.”

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