The role of the chief information officer (CIO) continues to evolve as technology transitions from being a tool for conducting business to becoming the business itself. The shift places CIOs at center stage, with growing demands requiring them to meet operational responsibilities while driving business outcomes.

These changes highlight the expanding role of CIOs and their current focus areas: Today’s IT leaders are not only technical experts, they also need to develop a deep understanding of the business.

Key findings from a Deloitte U.S. survey of 211 U.S.-based CIOs and technology leaders revealed nearly two-thirds (63%) of technology leaders now report directly to the CEO, indicating the elevated importance of the CIO role.
Survey results indicated that to succeed, CIOs must exhibit a blend of traditional tech and business traits, including driving transformation and innovation (59%), delivering topline value (57%), and serving as change agents (54%).
The top priority in 2024 for CIOs is shaping, aligning and delivering a unified tech strategy and vision, cited by 46% of those surveyed.

In contrast, only one-third (35%) would consider embracing AI, data, analytics and machine learning as their primary focus.

The report found CIOs are focused on their soft skills, so they can effectively partner with non-technical teams.
For example, reporting metrics and outcomes in business terms that resonate with executive stakeholders and tying technology initiatives back to financial and strategic impacts.

Sparking Ambition, Maintaining IT Integrity

Lou DiLorenzo, principal and national U.S. CIO program leader at Deloitte Consulting, said CIOs and tech leaders need to spark the ambitions of entire companies while maintaining the integrity of the infrastructure that enables it all.
“The technology executives who do this well embrace a growth mindset, lead with humility, and cultivate an insatiable curiosity,” he said.

He noted in the past, CIOs and other tech leaders had the responsibility of being the technical experts of an organization — the back-office leaders who run IT and keep the lights on.

“As technology moves beyond underpinning the business to being the business, CIOs and IT professionals are not just tasked with their traditional operator responsibilities DiLorenzo said. Now they must be in lockstep with the business to deliver value and outcomes through technology, driving everything from innovation to customer experience to new revenue streams.

He explained that while this expanding mandate is not without its challenges, CIOs have an immense opportunity to show up differently and propel their organizations toward new levels of success.

“With the evolving role of CIO focusing more on strategic priorities and business outcomes, we see the responsibilities of IT professionals shifting in a few ways,” he said.

CIOs and C-Suite Collaboration

Anjali Shaikh, managing director and U.S. CIO Program Experience director at Deloitte Consulting, noted that the relationship between the CIO and other C-suite executives, particularly the CEO, has evolved due to technology’s central role in business strategy.

“We’ve even seen a significant increase in the number of technology leaders who report directly to the CEO, a jump to 63% from the 41% reported in 2015,” she explained.

This change in reporting structures not only signifies technology’s elevated status within organizations but also imposes a greater responsibility on CIOs to communicate the impact of technology clearly and consistently.

“This is an area where we often see our clients struggle, for CIOs to secure their place at the executive table, they need to effectively measure how technology is advancing strategic priorities and communicate this to everyone from the CEO and board to their C-suite peers,” Shaikh said.

She explained the CIO is now viewed as a strategic partner rather than merely a support function, therefore being included earlier in strategic planning discussions.

Meanwhile, collaboration between the CIO and peers like the CFO and CMO has increased to identify opportunities for technology to impact various business functions.

DiLorenzo noted tomorrow’s CIOs will need to continue to be multilingual, empathetic and agile leaders who can effectively paint a clear picture of a future that doesn’t yet exist.

“They’ll need to influence differently, meaning they’ll need to be more attuned to what the individuals on their teams or the leaders in other departments need most and then deliver on that,” he said. “Change happens one person at a time, one task at a time, one customer phone call at a time.”