Information Management: The Organizational Dimension

By Michael J. Earl | Go to book overview

23 The Chief Information Officer: Past, Present, and Future

MICHAEL J. EARL


Introduction

The post of IT director probably appeared on the organization chart of large corporations in the early 1980s (Diebold Research Group 1984), while the title 'Chief Information Officer'--or CIO--hit our consciousness a few years later. The CIO label was perhaps a recognition that the Information Systems function had become critical in many organizations and that therefore its most senior executive deserved parity with, say, the Chief Financial Officer. By the end of the decade, the post--if not the title-was common in large organizations. It could be a main board position reporting to the CEO, or located one or two levels below, reporting to a board member.

As Applegate and Elam ( 1992) imply, the rise of the CIO marked the transition from what might be called the DP era to the Information Era. Perhaps three forces were at work. First, as new information technologies arrived and began to converge with computing, somebody was required to oversee the formation and execution of technical policies and standards required in architecting and building the IT infrastructure ( Rockart et al. 1982; Elam et al. 1988). Secondly, this explosion of information processing created an activity in need of leadership and a production function in need of management which required more than the skills of a technical specialist ( Rockart 1982; Hurley and Ko 1991). Indeed, as the size of IT budgets increased, it became difficult to resist the notion that a corporate officer should be appointed to ensure that information resources were efficiently and effectively deployed. Then, as it became clear that IT could be a source of strategic advantage, or at least an essential strategic capability, it was argued that a senior general manager should be charged with integrating IT decisions with business development ( Synott 1987; Cash et al. 1992).

By 1990, however, the turnover rate of CIOs was attracting attention so that one waggish article redefined CIO as 'Career Is Over' ( Rothfeder 1990). Turnover rates of about 30 per cent have been reported ( Hurley

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