CIOs' role in a GC's life

Just returning from the CIO Leadership conference I am struck by both the parallels and differences of the CIO position in the evolving C-suite community of US corporations with that of the General Counsel or other in-house counsel.

For those not familiar with what a CIO is or does here is my brief explanation. CIO stands for Chief Information Officer. Though this specific title is anything but standard at this point in time it is the most popular. Others in this arena may be called Chief Solutions Officers, VP of Technology, Director of IT, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and so on. I will use CIO for simplicity.

The role can be best summarized as that which is responsible for dealing with the electronic information management systems and overall technology of the organization. From the back-office systems like payroll, email, CRMs, etc. to front-end systems like client interface tools, communications, product development, mobility, etc. No doubt I am leaving much out here but my point is to give you the general idea of who this person is. It is worth noting that not all CIOs have a seat at the executive leadership meetings like the CEO, CFO, and GC do.

The CIO’s main challenges are to manage the day-to-day technology functions of the organization as well as manage the innovation/development of future technologies that the organization may have to rely on, offer in terms of products, or otherwise integrate with in some fashion. With the current pace of technological advancement both challenges are changing in terms of what the CIO must be aware of and what he/she does to address them. In short the target is constantly moving.

Not dissimilar to a GC - a properly positioned CIO will have a complete vision and access across the entire platform of the enterprise - front-end and back-end services (note this is not as prolific as is needed at this point). A CIO has access to all business units within a company and all the support departments. The CIO is aware of the major technological changes that are occurring both enterprise wide and within specific areas and/or geographic regions (especially important in global companies). A CIO may have to fight to gain access to the top tier of her company and getting access to the executive committee but they often can offer insight and intelligence in a unique and useful manner about all other levels and groups – something a GC should seek. Perhaps a quid pro quo – GC helps CIO access the top-tier and the CIO provides GCs access and vision across the footprint.

A marriage made in heaven – perhaps not that dramatic but an incredible powerful alliance for certain.