Role of the CIO throughout History

31 Oct

With the evolution of technology systems over time, inevitably the role of the CIO has had to adapt to fit into its environment. Ross and Feeney divided this evolution into three separate eras to classify the radical changes and improvements. The three eras that arise out of this piece are:

  • The Mainframe Era: Roughly between the 1960’s and 1980’s when computers were mostly mainframe.
  • The Distributed Era: The era when workstations, PC’s arose and became interconnected through networks.
  • The Web-Based Era: The era from the 1990’s in which there was a massive surge in the use of Internet and web protocols.


The role of the CIO obviously evolved to maintain its relevance and functionality and in this piece I will cover the history of the CIO in the mainframe era and in future blogs I hope to cover the following respective eras.

During the mainframe era, the role of IT systems in businesses was in its infancy and there were several major factors which impacted greatly on the role of the CIO or at the time, the IS manager. The mainframe computers that had been introduced were relatively new for businesses and executives recognised the potential for maximising business performance efficiency and cutting costs. The role of the CIO and its equivalent was mainly one of an operational manager to oversee the efficiency of the systems. At the same time, the focal tasks of the CIO would have been to develop systems in order to time and budget the current systems and to maximise the reliability.

Over time, the expectations of the IS manager expanded with more investments into IT ventures. This development led to more controversial issues as regularly these ventures failed to deliver tangible benefits in the midst of heavy investment and big promises. These incidents led to more investments in IS staff as there was massive scrutiny into the IT projects and there was pressure to avoid these misjudgements. In the middle of this, the status of the IS manager remained in middle management. The biggest change in this era was the criteria sought for IS managers/CIO’s. The previous necessity of personal technical aptitude changed to management skills and communication strength.

Stay tuned


2 Responses to “Role of the CIO throughout History”

  1. cmcoughlan October 31, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    Interesting blog oconnormatty7. I think if you asked any IT professional if their role in the workplace has evolved/changed over the years the answer would most definitely be ‘yes’! The IT sector has in the past, and always will require change and flexibility. I especially agree with the last point in your blog about it is no longer sufficient for IT professionals to only possess a technical aptitude but instead an array of soft skills are required including management,communication and presentation skills, teamwork, use of initiative etc
    Personally, I think that the role of the CIO will continue to change as the technology world continues to develop and expand.

  2. oconnormatty7 November 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    Sorry about the delay ‘cmcoughlan’ in reply but thanks for reading and leaving the comment anyway. In response to it, I didn’t mean to imply that only the role of the CIO was changing, of course all executive roles will evolve endlessly. I do believe the CIO will be subject to possibly more scrutiny however considering the recent debates.

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