So what do you call them?

We had the first information management session with our Management MSc students this week, and as part of this session introduced them to a couple of people with practical experience of working as Chief Information Officers (CIOSs).  At least that’s the job title that I’d favour for senior people with responsibility for information systems within an organisation.  But it’s clear that there isn’t universal agreement about this – the CIO in one business will do the same sort of thing as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in another, whereas I’d tend to assume that a CTO’s responsibilities have more to do with infrastructure than information.  And it’s unclear how different a CIO’s role is from that of a more traditional IT manager or IT director (and go back a few decades, and you’ll find businesses where the predecessor of the IT director was called the chief programmer).  In fact this reflects a theme in the IT business: IT people are often uncertain as to how to describe themselves.  For software types, programmer is too specific, and I’m not unconvinced whether ‘software engineer’, ‘designer’, or ‘analyst’ are really accurate descriptions for more senior role.  ‘I work with computers’ is evasive, and anyway, who doesn’t work with computers in the 21st century?

One other point that came up in the conversations: CIOs like to point out that a century or so ago, many businesses had a director of electricity, because at the time it was a scarce commodity and supplies were unreliable.  With the current interest in dwindling energy supplies and different sustainable sources of energy, I wonder if we’ll start to see the directors of electricity make a comeback?

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