DEFINITION of 'Chief Information Officer - CIO'

A chief information officer, or CIO, is the company executive responsible for the management, implementation and usability of information and computer technologies. The CIO analyzes how these technologies benefit the company or improve an existing business process, and then integrates a system to realize that benefit or improvement.

The number of CIOs has increased greatly with the expanded use of IT and computer technology in businesses. The CIO deals with matters such as creating a website that allows the company to reach more customers or integrating new inventory software to help better manage the use of inventory.

BREAKING DOWN 'Chief Information Officer - CIO'

The role of CIO has changed over the decades. In the 1980s, the position was more technical in nature as companies maintained their own internal computers, databases and communications networks. In the 2010s, thanks to cloud computing, wireless communications, big-data analytics and mobile devices, CIOs develop strategies and computer systems that keep businesses competitive in a fast-changing global marketplace. One major responsibility of a contemporary CIO is to predict the future of computer technology trends that give a business an advantage over others. The day-to-day operations of maintaining a computer system generally falls on a person known as a chief operating officer of IT.

Qualifications of CIOs

Businesses generally require that a CIO have a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as computer science, computer information systems, IT management or database administration. A master's in business administration, coupled with a computer-based degree, can help a CIO run the business side of strategy, development, hiring and budgeting.

Skills Needed

CIOs must employ several hard and soft skills to excel at this job. CIOs need to know how to run a business because the job requires a lot of knowledge with regard to how a company works from top to bottom. CIOs should also be aware of technology trends because IT may change in two to three years. This type of person needs to build relationships within the company, with other top-level executives and colleagues in the field. A CIO must know how every department of a company works to determine the technical needs of each branch of the firm, and this person has to excel at communications. The ability to translate technical terms in ways that non-IT employees can easily understand is often a must.


As expected, the role of CIO pays well. A company executive that holds the highest-ranking IT position in a firm averaged nearly $200,000 per year in 2014. Salaries ranged from $153,000 to $246,750. In small companies, CIOs typically make less money and have different job titles. Smaller businesses may have an IT manager, lead database manager, chief security officer or application development manager.

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