CIO direct reports - The team behind the leader

Every couple of years a debate about whether the role of the CIO has a future springs up. Each time, the debate follows a narrative that CIOs will be replaced by [insert latest trendy job title]. At present, it is the CDO and CMO who are set to replace the CIO, following some excessive hype by the analyst house Gartner. What does all this mean for the direct reports working for CIOs whose next career move will be to step up into the CIO role?

Richard Corbridge, the former CIO of the Clinical Research Network and now chief executive of eHealth Ireland, was one of the younger CIOs in the 2014 CIO 100. Together with this title, we set up a round table debate with three of his CRN colleagues, each of whom reports directly to him, to discuss the state of the CIO role, its scope and how they see their careers developing into the top seat in business technology leadership.

The Clinical Research Network (CRN) supports research to make patients, and the NHS better. It is part of the National Institute for Health Research, which is the clinical research arm of the NHS in England.
The CRN's role is to provide the practical support that academic and commercial life-sciences industry researchers need for their studies within the NHS, so that more study can take place, and more patients can take part.

At the table were CIO Richard Corbridge; Jennifer Quinn (top image, far right), head of knowledge and information and deputy CIO; Nadine Boczkowski, head of business intelligence (centre); and Chris King, programme manager (left). Quinn also has responsibility for operations delivery. So our table is set with a fairly typical set of those who report directly to the CIO. An Editor's observation would be that this team leans towards an information role rather than a technology one. This is due to the information management role of the Clinical Research Network, but is perhaps a model of management structure that CIOs in more vertical markets need to consider.

Is the CIO relevant?

This is the obvious question to start our debate and one that is challenging for a CIO to hear their team discuss.

"Yes, it's the strategic input that you have to the organisation," explains Chris King. "As a CIO you are feeding into a wider strategy."

Nadine Boczkowski asks:"Will the role be called a CIO or will it be a wider information broker back into the business to deliver impact? I'm less bothered about the title and more about what it achieves as a role. In regards to the CDO or CTO debate, I prefer information in the role as that is more all-encompassing. The media that we transfer information on to is not important for me. CIOs have a drive to continually improve."

Jennifer Quinn believes that "the role has changed to become a core business function and not about IT hardware. CIOs will be about network builders and that is one of the things I have learnt."

"Although I am not sure we are part of an organisation that understands what a CIO is and some people see it as a directorate of risk and tin," explains King. Which is an interesting statement as the CRN is an organisation designed to deliver an information strategy.

"That issue is something we have tried to change," reveals CIO Corbridge. "We never mention technology in the directorate meetings. Our organisation is pushing the CIOs not to be CIOs. When you look at our executive that goes out and presents what the CRN do, as the CIO, I am very involved in that. I still think the CIO badge matters though and that this person is on the executive and is responsible for information and technology," he explains.

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