MIS Quarterly Executive


The role of chief information officer (CIO) is riddled with ambiguity. To better understand the role, together with the causes and consequences of the ambiguity, we conducted interviews with CIOs, CxOs, recruiters, and industry analysts. Our findings indicate that this ambiguity is rooted in the fact that there are five distinct CIO roles: Utility IT Director, Evangelist CIO, Innovator CIO, Facilitator CIO, and Agility IT Director/CIO. The appropriate role for a particular organization at a point in time is determined by the criticality of information and technology for competitive differentiation and the maturity of its information leadership capabilities. Both are strongly influenced by the digital literacy of the CxO team. Moreover, our research suggests that in some organizations, the CIO roles follow a clear evolutionary path as some responsibilities that CIOs have assumed migrate away from the CIO and become embedded in CxO roles. We highlight the implications of this shift and provide specific recommendations for CIOs, CEOs, and CxOs as they seek to clarify the role of CIO so that they can optimize the value they generate from IT investments.