Cio vs ciso

CIO vs. CISO: Job Descriptions, Skills, and Future Outlook

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CIO vs. CISO – how do these jobs compare? And what does it take to succeed in each role?

Both CIOs and CISOs are IT leaders, but the job descriptions differ quite a bit. Each role has its own unique set of responsibilities and job requirements. Each job, therefore, will attract different types of IT professionals.


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Below, we’ll learn more about these two positions, their responsibilities, and how these roles will evolve in the years ahead.

CIO vs. CISO: What’s the Difference?

Here is a quick breakdown of these two jobs:

CIO Job Description

CIO stands for Chief Information Officer.

CIOs are responsible for overseeing an organization’s digital technology and IT operations. And, in more recent years, CIOs are taking the helm of digital strategy and digital initiatives, such as digital transformation programs.

Common job duties include:

  • IT services delivery, management, and maintenance
  • Negotiating with vendors to procure IT products and services 
  • Analyzing costs and benefits of information technology
  • Spearheading digital transformation and digital adoption programs

The CIO position is evolving quickly, and tomorrow’s CIO may look very different from today’s, as we’ll see below. 

CIO Job Requirements

To succeed as a CIO, it is important to have a technical background and years of experience working in IT. 

However, it is becoming more and more important to also have business and leadership skills.

Since many CIOs are being required to design and lead digital transformation efforts, the modern CIO must be innovative as well as technically savvy.

Here are a few things CIOs need to succeed:

  • A degree in computer science, engineering, or a related field
  • Years of experience working in IT as a manager
  • Experience leading and managing successful digital initiatives
  • A business mindset 
  • Leadership and management skills

Naturally, since the CIO is a high-level executive position, it requires extensive experience and a proven track record of success. 

Becoming a CIO will take considerable time and effort – and it is a coveted position, so there is often a great deal of competition for these jobs. 

However, it can be very rewarding and very lucrative. On average, for instance, CIO salaries top six figures per year. 

CISO Job Description

CISO stands for Chief Information Security Officer.

The CISO is an executive-level position, like the CIO. 

CISOs, however, focus their efforts primarily on cybersecurity. 

Common job duties include:

  • Designing and overseeing cybersecurity operations
  • Data and privacy compliance and fraud prevention
  • Deploying security hardware, software, and IT infrastructure
  • Keeping up-to-date with cyber risks and the current state of the cybersecurity industry

In short, CISOs are strictly focused on security, so this job is ideal for those who are more technically minded and interested in cybersecurity. That being said, however, CISOs also need to have a strong business sense, if not a degree in business, since they will so often be interacting with other high-level executives.

Like CIOs, CISO salaries can be quite high, averaging around six figures per year, depending on the sector and the company.

The Future of the CIO

The future CIO will most likely be more of a strategist than an IT operations manager.

Many analyst firms have pointed out that businesses are relying more and more on their CIOs for digital innovation and digital transformation. 

The result, as alluded to earlier, is that CIOs are now being required to:

  • Develop technology-driven business strategies
  • Research and innovate with emerging technology
  • Manage and lead organizational change efforts
  • Guide an organization towards digital maturity
  • Assist with creating employee training and upskilling programs

CIOs are not generalists, per se, but it will be useful for them to acquire a more generalized set of business skills in addition to their IT skills.

One term used to describe this “new” type of CIO is the “transformational CIO.”

In other words, CIOs are leading transformational change in many businesses. Even today, in many of the world’s largest enterprises, many CIOs identify as transformation CIOs.

According to a survey by IDG, 46% of CIOs self-identify as transformational CIOs, while another 29% self-identify as business strategists.

In the years to come, expect to see even more digitally-driven change in the economy and, as a result, an increase in the number of transformational CIOs.

The Future of the CISO

CIOs are not the only transformational executives. 

Transformational CISOs have also become more common recently, particularly in 2020, when businesses around the world were forced to adopt telecommuting policies and practices.

Given the unprecedented pace of change in 2020, it is not surprising that Forrester has made the claim that “every CISO is now a transformational CISO.”

During times as volatile as these – and in the post-COVID next normal – CISOs will need to adopt certain behaviors and skills.

These include:

  • Learning to thrive amid uncertainty and volatility
  • Staying agile and adaptable in the face of constant change
  • Designing security strategies for a workplace that is more remote and more digital
  • Developing strong leadership skills

In short, CISOs and CIOs will both become business leaders, not just IT operations managers

Succeeding in either role will require a set of skills and a personality type that embraces both IT, as well as business, leadership, and people management.

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