The Next Step for the CIO

Has the sun finally set for the traditional CIO as we see him or her? Well the short answer is maybe. 


via GIPHY

All you have to do is look back 10 years and you’ll find that the role has basically transformed, so it is not so hard to believe that it will do so again. With the onset of the Digital Age, we should really try to bring the CIO up to date.

Is it reasonable to consider the CIO in terms of a service rather that a person? Why not considering the CIO has been doing his/her utmost to translate everyone else’s job into a generic role and in turn to a generic set of services/components. The emergence of the service-based ICT organisation, together with the adoption of outsourcing and cloud, has facilitated this in the form of ‘ICT as a Service’.

So why not start by breaking down the service:



The next question is: can these services be delivered as a virtual service or set of services?


Established frameworks such as TOGAF, P3M3/Prince2, ISO/IEC, COBIT and ITIL/ITSM offer guidelines to codify Strategic Planning, Program Management, Risk Management, Governance and Technology Leadership. 

Organisation Design and Development are largely experiential with models and frameworks widely available. Stakeholder Management can also be imported as this is based around relationship management although the level of intimacy might be difficult to emulate.

It is also true that many CIOs already import many of these skills through the engagement of consultancies. This demonstrates that virtual capabilities may already be in place at an additional cost to the organisation. This is to some extent understandable as the CIO role has expanded exponentially over recent times.

It is worth considering what the potential constraints to setting up a virtual CIO arrangement are?

  1. Cost
    The likelihood is that the cost of not having a full time CIO can be more than offset with having a Virtual Substitute for 50% of their time.
  2. Loss of business intimacy 
    Whilst this is probably the hardest to replace, having best in class Strategic Planning and Architecture frameworks in place will enable the essence of the business to be modelled.
  3. Loss of accessibility (i.e. to strategic ICT advice) This facility can be available ‘on tap’ with the added advantage of having multiple CIO substitutes available to consult.
  4. Loss of capability 
    As above, expect to extend capability by assembling the combined expertise of 3 or 4 Virtual CIOs.


There might be other constraints but these are most likely to be the most significant. In summary, the Virtual CIO service offers the potential advantage of being more cost effective, equally business intimate and substantially more accessible and capable.


To really step up to the Digital Age, it seems that the next logical step is to create the Digital CIO. This would require the ‘CIO as an Avatar’ to be created before teleporting him/her/it into the stratosphere – an area 10km to 50km above the Earth’s surface that has no Clouds.

via GIPHY

About the Author

Tony Welsh - Associate Partner, Information Professionals

Tony has over 35 years’ experience as an ICT professional including 15 years in Chief Information Officer (CIO) roles. His particular skills include ICT and business strategic planning, program management, business and ICT alignment, stakeholder management. He is particularly valuable for organisations seeking to get more out of their ICT investments and/or to use ICT to transform their organisation. He has extensive experience in the management and design of ICT organisations.

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