The CIO as Chief Intelligence Officer

In the quest for IT to be recognised as a completely integrated business function the CIO is increasingly being advised to dress, talk and walk the walk of business whilst at the same time driving the technology services that underpin the modern corporation. Here follows a very personal view of one of the many leadership qualities needed to deliver this complex and mutating ‘job’.


The ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations: reason; also: the skilled use of reason (2) the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (3) aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.

Knowledge of an event, circumstance, etc., received or imparted; news; information.

The gathering, interchange or distribution of information about an enemy or a potential enemy and the evaluated conclusions drawn from such information.

The CIO as Chief Intelligence Officer has a complete awareness of trends, competition and markets and communicates these to the enterprise. The Intelligence Officer sits in the middle of a living and dynamic web of data gathering, analysis and distribution channels that map directly to the tactical business agenda of today and help sculpt the blueprint to the future. These channels demonstrate and amplify their intimate knowledge of the business, its proposition and the myriad touchpoints that are brought together in the development of strategic planning and execution in a globalised, technology attuned and increasingly legislated world.

In a maritime analogy of modern business, the CEO is captain and stands, flanked by the Executive, at the helm of the good ship Organisation, fuelled by Sales, crewed by HR, made efficient by Finance/Operations and with assured round trip revenues attracted by Marketing. The CIO facilitates all the above and provisions the massive engines necessary to complete the voyage profitably; meshing these seamlessly with the sensors and communication channels that detect and navigate safely through the storms of change, the reefs of missed opportunity and the icebergs of competition that litter the crowded shipping lanes of commerce.

This is the true ‘C Suite’ value and differentiator in the role that has evolved from the techniques of pure IT management. No other function is better equipped or more empowered to reach out across boundaries, data stores, matrices or geographies to provide the intelligence that counters threats, builds opportunities and analyses performance in a thoroughly targeted and well-presented manner.

Long gone are the days when all you need ask ‘is a tall ship and a star to steer her by’.