The Emergence of the CIO-Plus, series in Forbes

November 19, 2012
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Most CIOs wear many hats. The good news is, those hats are getting more strategic.

by Peter High, published on


As IT leaders become much more business-centric in terms of their skillset, they have been asked to assume additional responsibilities beyond their traditional IT roles. The reasons are varied, but it is at least partially due to the fact that IT is one of the few (some argue the only) departments that understand business processes from end-to-end.  Moreover, IT leaders must speak with peers in the c-suite or heads of business units about their plans and strategies. Clever IT executives recognize that this puts them in an ideal position to identify themes from across the organization and suggest single solutions to address multiple needs while fostering greater collaboration across the company.  Lastly, as CIOs and their teams develop competencies related to people management, governance, security, procurement, vendor management among many other topics, these are areas of expertise that apply to other parts of the organization as well.

For these reasons, a great number of CIOs have been asked to take on additional responsibilities.  I refer to this phenomenon as “CIO-plus.” CIOs are now also Chief Innovation Officers, Heads of HR, Chief Supply Chain Officers, and Heads of Shared Services to name just a few.  Beginning the week following Thanksgiving, I will publish interviews with leaders who have assumed these additional responsibilities, including

  • Puneet Bhasin, the Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President of Technology, Logistics and Customer Service for Waste Management
  • Ben Allen, the Chief Information Officer and the Chief Innovation Officer of Marsh & McLennan
  • Sheleen Quish, the Senior Vice President IT and HR at Ameristar Casinos
  • Chris Scalet, the former Executive Vice President of Global Process & Services and CIO of Merck
  • David Johns, the Chief Information Officer and SVP of Global Information Services for Owens Corning, and who used to be Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain and Information Technology Officer of that company.
  • Chris Laping, the Senior Vice President of Business Transformation and Chief Information Officer Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

The reasons these executives and others have given logic to expand CIO’s responsibilities include:

  • Due to the nature of their work, CIO’s tend to use structured, logical ways to tackle big problems, which are skills that can be applied beyond IT
  • Having CIOs take on responsibility for other departments provides greater opportunity to take costs out of the organization
  • Historically, CIOs have been more introverted on average. Those who are strong at relationship building and communications while maintaining detail-oriented technology expertise have a solid balance that apply beyond IT
  • So much innovation that can yield top-line and bottom-line improvements are delivered through technology, so more IT leaders are becoming business value drivers

It should be mentioned that more than one CIO-plus executive also indicated that it is attractive for many companies to double a successful executive’s responsibilities without doubling his or her pay.

How can IT and business leaders groom the CIO-pluses of the future?

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