Hello, and welcome to another edition of the CxO newsletter.
It’s no secret that we at Forbes love a good list. And last week, my colleague Martin Giles, senior editor of the CIO Network, launched our second annual CIO Next list, recognizing 50 top tech leaders who are redefining the CIO role and driving game-changing innovation.
The list was striking for several reasons: Nearly a third of the honorees are women, like United Airlines’ Linda Jojo, and many are people of color, with quite a few hailing from India. Those who feature on the list have been in their roles an average of three years and seven months, and the majority (but not all!) hold a degree in computer science or engineering.
But what fascinated me most, perhaps, is barely half have CIO in their job title.
As Giles notes in his piece introducing the list, the influence its honorees wield has reached new heights in the wake of the pandemic, extending beyond technology in a way that’s expanded their responsibilities—and now their job titles.
“Welcome to the era of the E Pluribus Unum CIO,” Giles writes, “in which the executive formerly known by those three letters may now be called the chief digital and technology officer (CDTO), or the chief information technology officer (CITO), or the chief information and digital officer (CIDO), or the chief technology and operating officer (CTOO), or any number of other variations.”
At a time when executives needlessly don new titles (here’s looking at you, Block head), it’s easy to put this trend in that category. But it’s an image problem, through and through: The CIO brand is inextricably linked to a time when the job was to collect and distribute information. Today’s CIOs want to do more—and they do.
Just look at Toyota Financial Services’ Vipin Gupta: In January he traded his CIO title for that of chief innovation and digital officer, a role that’s found him helping to lead technology, yes, as well as corporate strategy and research.
Information chiefs aren’t the only C-suite leaders seeing the letters in their acronyms modified and multiplied. As Jena McGregor, Forbes’ senior editor of careers, reported earlier in the year, there’s been an uptick in job titles related to the future of work and hybrid work since the pandemic began. And as I’ve reported, the events of 2020 shaped corporate America’s executive ranks, with titles such as chief medical officer cropping up outside healthcare in sectors such as hospitality.
Saikat Chaudhuri, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, tells Giles, what matters most isn’t the title on a tech leader’s business card, but the person they report to in the org chart. Without a seat at the table, without the ear of the CEO, the influence they wield will not continue to grow.
Thank you for reading, and feel free to share your ideas with me at email@example.com.