Zetta Blog

CIO job responsibilities

CIOs: What They Do and How to Get There

by Maggie Getova

The role of the CIO is becoming increasingly important one as organizations become more digital, and as that technology becomes more important in growing business. With these technological changes follow the changes of the responsibilities of the CIO. So what are some of the roles and responsibilities of the CIO, what does it take to get there?

CIO Experience/Background and Skills

CIOs generally have an educational background in computer science, engineering or relevant field, with an MSc/MA being preferable to a BA. They also tend to have years of experience in IT implementation and developing IT systems at various organizations. Other background skills include:

  • Minimum 15 years of experience leading complex IT departments
  • Analyzing data from multiple sources to come up with actionable information
  • Strong understanding of financials
  • Leadership skills combined with technical know-how
  • Manage complex and dynamic technical environments
  • Capitalize on in-house talent strengths & determine which outside experts are needed
  • Strong understanding of modern cloud technologies
  • Providing strategic direction to create actionable plans in moving business forward

Understanding of business operations, data analysis and budgeting are key skills for aspiring CIOs. Other critical CIO skills also include problem-solving and being highly analytical. Project management skills are also essential for the CIO in order to drive the IT department forward efficiently. Communication for CIOs is key as well, as it comes in handy for conveying high tech concepts to various departments and critical decision makers at organizations.  

The Role of CIO: What do they actually do?

CIO responsibilities have changed significantly since the mid-80’s. Back then CIOs were mostly focused on technical projects. Today, the CIO is closely involved with formulating the goals of an organization, which means working closely with various departments and using those critical communication skills on a daily basis. Managing their IT teams and IT budgets are also major parts of the CIO’s role. Making decisions on improving current technologies and implementing new ones while keeping company goals in mind is an on-going task. Other daily tasks in the life of a CIO include:

  • Addressing long term IT concerns
  • Planning & coordinating future IT strategies
  • Maintain communication with IT staff and department heads
  • Running meetings with various departments and teams
  • Maintaining meticulous list of projects & their status
  • Carefully planning future projects
  • Addressing and managing short-term issues
CIO Role Responsibilities


Disaster recovery planning has also become an important part of the CIO’s responsibilities over the past few years; this could include anything from choosing disaster recovery solution to putting together a business continuity plan in order to avoid downtime and keep business running in the event of a disaster.

CIO Day Time Spent


It’s also important to note that the role of a CIO at one organization may be completely different from that of another. This is because different types of businesses are at different stages of digitization, which directly affects the CIO’s responsibilities and how they go about making decisions on technological advances for the company.

Job Outlook for CIOs

Between 2014 and 2024, employment of IT managers and execs is expected to grow by 15%, which is much faster than the average of other occupations. Only a small part of these openings will be for the position of CIO however; the role is a competitive one as there is only one opening per company. Most companies who hire for the position of a CIO are also limited to bigger enterprises. Prospective CIOs can increase their chances of being hired by working on some of the following skills:

  • Contract negotiation with vendor management (to take advantage of utilizing cloud-based providers to cut down on IT costs)
  • Business intelligence skills and big data analysis tool familiarity
  • Information Security tools
  • Mobile app development

Key Character Attributes for Successful CIOs

Time Management

Time management for CIOs is critical. Not only do CIOs need to set time to manage big projects and various future IT initiatives, they also need to be able to balance those with their regular daily IT management tasks. In the meantime, they also need to be able to have time set aside to address any emergency issues as they come up throughout any given day. This is why maintaining meticulous lists of projects and keeping an up-to-date calendar are a must for successful CIOs.


Flexibility is important for CIOs when it comes to planning for IT decisions. In a perfect world, all technology could be improved simultaneously and everything would always go according to plan. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world, and the CIO needs to be able to make decisions around the roadblocks that are bound to pop up. Whether it’s a budget, timing issue, or some other unexpected problem, the ability to remain flexible and change IT plans and priorities according to the current environment is key to successful IT planning for the CIO.

There isn’t necessarily a single skill or talent that makes a CIO successful. Since technology is constantly changing, a skill or responsibility that is really important today may be completely irrelevant three years from now. That’s why it’s important that aspiring CIOs round out numerous skills and keep up with the latest trends in technology, so they may evolve along with it and plan ahead for future business needs and potential CIO responsibilities.

Maggie G

Maggie is a content writer and editor at Zetta. She writes for the blog and manages web content.