CIOIT Staff & Team Building

As a CIO, Whom Should You Actually Report to?

The CIO role has evolved from heading the back office department to a frontline IT unit. Nonetheless, you still report to a CEO, COO, or CFO. In this article at the Enterprisers Project, Stephanie Overby discusses the reporting structure of a CIO.

The Reporting of CIO

The majority of the IT leaders feel that the CEO should be the ideal boss for a CIO. The chief information officer role is no longer limited to making IT operations cost-efficient. According to Heller Research Associates MD Carol Lynn Thistle, CIOs must have a good grasp on how the company is operating. For that to be possible, they need to be direct reports of the CEO. Only 51 percent of CIOs in the U.S. report to their CEOs. Following are the reporting structures companies usually adhere to:

Reporting to the CEO: CIO Bench Coach founder Larry Bonfante remarks that a company values IT if its CIO is directly reporting to the CEO. According to the Forrester surveys, financial services and life sciences sectors have CIOs reporting to the CEOs. IT plays a vital role in their industry. If you work in such a company, you will rub shoulders with the executives quite often. You can present ideas directly to them because they will value your opinion during strategic decisionmaking. However, if several people are reporting to the CEO, that can be disadvantageous.

Reporting to the COO: According to Thistle, the IT department is crucial for business operations if you are working under the COO. You still can present ideas to the executive committee. Usually, a chief operating officer oversees operations and subsequent strategic growth of the company. Reporting to this role can be the next best reporting model for a CIO. However, the COO might focus more on operations than the company growth. This scenario might reduce the importance of the chief information officer role.

Reporting to the CFO: This reporting structure is prevalent in the manufacturing and service sectors. The CIO must ensure that people do not identify IT as a cost center. The CFO has a good understanding of how IT works and can leverage technology to reach financial goals. The challenge is that your IT team performance will be measured with business metrics. This incident can reduce the efforts of the IT initiatives that require a long-term commitment.

Reporting to the CAO: Far less common a scenario, a CIO reporting to the CAO has a less strategic role to play. This reporting structure is typical in the energy and oil and gas sectors. Because the CAO is hardly involved in the strategic decisionmaking, the CIO has to work harder to get things done.

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