Ten to fifteen years ago the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO) was being touted as the next critical job title right up there with CFO and nearly as important as the CEO. I personally have seen so many CIOs come and go at smaller organizations and startups that the title seems to have really lost its luster. And most have not gone voluntarily. It seems to me that the position has become more like a Chief Implication Officer getting blamed for most things wrong with the technology of the organization…and often rightly so.
To get a truly experienced CIO, it’s obvious that you’re going to have to spend some dollars. There’s a big difference in salary and experience between a CIO and an IT Manager, though for many organizations (even some mid-sized ones) an IT Manager may be all you really need.
I found the following statement once in an online forum…
“You can't be an Admiral without a fleet and if you're managing a handful of Help Desk guys you aren't a CIO. It would probably also reflect your location on the pecking order. If you report directly to anyone other than the CEO you're probably not a CIO. Then there's the pay scale. A CIO would make much more than a Director or Manager.”
CIO or IT Manager?
That pretty much falls in line with my beliefs as well. If you need a strong technology leader who will be reporting directly to the CEO (and your organization is big enough so not everyone is reporting directly to the CEO!), then you probably need the CIO position. If you have a need for long-term infrastructure decisions, technology planning, and good roadmap created to follow along your company growth path, then go for it.
But be careful…as I stated, nearly every small company or startup that I’ve worked with in the last five years has either replaced their CIO or eliminated the position altogether, realizing that their real need in the short-term and near future was truly an IT Manager or IT Director.