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A Day in the Life of a CIO

Aug 21, 2019

A chief information officer (CIO) juggles numerous priorities throughout their day. Their role is to manage day-to-day operational activities, strategic planning, numerous projects, human resources activities such as hiring, performance reviews and employee development within their organization. There are many things that fall under their job description, and it's vital to understand how their role fits with other jobs inside an organization, and how their executive and technology expertise come together to help them find success.

If you enjoy tackling big problems, establishing strategy, helping others elevate their careers and providing innovative technology solutions, the role of CIO may be just the perfect career fit for you. Here’s a closer look at a typical day in the life of a CIO.

7:30 am – As you walk into the office, you touch base with your administrative assistant to catch up on any information items and provide input and feedback related to any questions. Now you’re ready to go. 

As a CIO your job role involves a mix of strategy and operational execution, putting out fires and planning for the future. Having the skills necessary to understand current technology trends, build mutually beneficial relationships with other technology or information leadership, managing complex projects, and staying on top of the day-to-day responsibilities of an executive are all skills that a chief information officer needs in order to succeed. These are skills that you could acquire through the Masters of Science in Information Technology Management at WGU. The combination of your prior IT experience and the M.S. in IT Management will position you for success as you work through days like this one. 

8:00 am – Review your technology team’s performance dashboard which includes data related to help desk ticket counts, resolution time frames, project progress indicators, and network and server performance. You notice that ticket resolution time has begun to show an upward trend so you note that you will inquire as to possible causes and ways to reverse this trend when you meet with the help desk director later that day. You also notice that the network performance stats show 99.999% up-time and that the servers are all operating properly. The CIO needs to be on top of these kinds of areas at all times.

9:00 am – Take a call from the CEO. She is currently meeting with the chief marketing officer (CMO) and they have a question about website performance. You offer to swing over to the CEO’s office if helpful, but she indicates that it is just a quick question. She then asks if the website’s performance has been an issue recently because the CMO has noticed a slight dip in the number of customers who are downloading the company’s marketing-related White Papers. You share that there are no performance statistics that indicate a website performance issue and send a quick screenshot of the web server's performance over the last month to the CEO and CMO via email.

9:30 am – Meeting with the CFO to talk about a licensing agreement for new customer relationship management (CRM) software that the Sales and IT teams have been investigating. Topics for the meeting include the cost and expected ROI in terms of increasing sales and the efficiency of the sales team. The main benefit of the CRM will involve making it easier for the sales team to access the data they need from any device.

10:00 am – You are meeting with the director of the help desk, and she is sharing ideas about a new incentive system for rewarding her team members. Among other topics, you also review the team performance dashboard and discuss the current trends. This is a great opportunity to consider the incentive system and how it would help drive the department’s KPIs.

11:00 am – The database administrator, lead software developer, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) administrator enter the office. They have assembled a proposal related to the integration of the supply chain management system and the ERP. You consider the proposal and you ask a few questions related to potential risks for specific aspects of the proposal. The evolving technology involved with supply chain management makes it your job to help pin down the best option for your organization.

1:00 pm – The point of sale system for your flagship store goes down. The help desk is alerted and you are briefed. The help desk escalates the issue to tier 2 support after some troubleshooting. Tier 2 discovers that the failure is caused by a faulty network switch. A network engineer is deployed to replace the switch. As the chief information officer, you call the manager on duty at the store in order to confirm that the issue has been resolved to her satisfaction. Part of your job description is to help management feel connected and involved with any issues that come up. 

1:30 pm – All hands IT staff meeting. Staff are informed of a new strategic initiative aimed at improving organizational decision making through a new Business Intelligence platform. The team will be leading the discovery process to find the best system, but it will be a collaborative effort involving many departments, other chief executives, managers, and more. Department heads and other chief executives like the CSO and CIO report on the status of projects and pending issues.

3:00 pm – Meeting with the CEO. Among other things you share findings, cost, evolving technology and how it impacts jobs for your team, and expected ROI for the CRM project. In addition, you share a high-level overview of the IT Divisions KPIs and discuss the status of on-going projects. Next, you share that the organization experienced a brief network outage earlier and that it has been resolved. Part of the chief information officer's job description is sharing the time frame from the start of the service interruption to the time of resolution as well as steps being taken to improve processes for the future. This provides the CEO with a gauge for the impact and the likelihood of a similar future interruption. 

4:00 pm – Receive approval to move forward with the CRM project. You swing by the office of the project manager overseeing the project and provide some specific action items and next steps for his role, including setting up a meeting to explore a rollout plan.

4:15 pm – While returning to your office, you walk through the network operations office suite and hear a barrage of ringtones as everyone’s phone goes off. The datacenter temperature is rising. The team rushes to the datacenter to attempt to identify and resolve the issue. They discover that the HVAC unit is not functioning. They begin to run fans, but it is not enough, and the servers are generating more heat than can be displaced. You text your administrative assistant to cancel your next meeting. As the chief information officer, making sure the IT department has everything it needs is a huge part of your job. This could end up being a huge problem if not handled. 

4:30 pm – Server administrators are monitoring the servers for temperature and performance and find that it is necessary to begin shutting down non-critical servers. Thankfully they have planned for a situation such as this one and can implement a Disaster Recovery (DR) solution but the decision to switch over to the DR site is not to be taken lightly as the process of migrating to the DR site can be time consuming. The network operations leadership and you discuss if you should migrate to the DR site.

4:35 pm – The Facilitates Manager has discovered the cause of the HVAC outage and is attempting to resolve the issue. The decision is made to hold off on switching to the DR site for another 10 minutes to see if the HVAC unit begins operating as normal.

4:40 pm – The HVAC system is operational, and the temperature is dropping, but it will take up to 3 hours for the temperature of the datacenter to return to normal. The non-critical servers that had been shut down are powered back on one by one in order to monitor the impact on the temperature in the datacenter. Your enterprise was well prepared for this issue and you're proud of your team and the role they are playing in fixing the situation. As a CIO, this was your moment to put out a fire and really shine.

4:45 pm – You thank the team for their fast response and ask the team leads to conduct a lessons learned discussion with the team. They share with you the summary so you can pass it on to other chief officers in the organization.  

5:00 pm – Return to your desk to take a breath and send an email to the CEO. In it, you provide a brief update and explain that the issue has been resolved. You also share any key impacts for customer service, employees, and more.

5:30 pm – Begin working through the additional 55 emails that you either did not get to earlier or that came in since you last focused on email.

6:00 pm – The CEO is on her way out to a community event and stops by your office to ask a “quick question.” She wonders what it would cost to evaluate and implement a new ERP. You tell her that this type of project can often cost in the tens of millions. You know that there is something driving this question and that you need to get to the bottom of it because it is very likely that a solution can be found without resorting to replacing the ERP. Based on the sparse information you have at this time, though, you estimate high. You decide to follow up with her later to understand the root concern that sparked this question, but you both need to wrap up your day and head out from the office. 

While there is great responsibility in what you do throughout the day, you’re equipped to know what can wait until tomorrow. That’s because as a CIO, you look beyond the tyranny of the urgent and see the opportunities for continuous improvement. Chief information officers are adept at problem solving and have the ability to communicate well with individuals at all levels of the organization. Relationship building is key, as you cannot do it alone. But this is what makes being a CIO so rewarding. 

7:00 pm – You walk in and sit down to dinner with the family.

8:30 pm – Preparation for tomorrow. You prepare a presentation on why an upgrade to the HVAC system in the datacenter is needed. Building a backup HVAC system will be a key point of the presentation. You are also thinking about how to maximize the ROI from the CRM by making sure it is designed and implemented well with a focus on user training.

You might end your day reading the business and technology section of your favorite online news source.


All in a day's work.

Being a CIO is fast-paced, but bringing strategic value and being able to balance urgent issues and long-term strategies can earn you an annual salary of over $165,000, according to Glassdoor. Most companies look for candidates with a master's degree in information technology management. How long will it take you to become a CIO? Usually it will take at least 6 years of school (a bachelor's and master's degree) and then usually a decade or more of work experience. You'll need to be prepared to become a chief information officer by spending time working in the IT sector to gain enough experience to be prepared. If guiding strategy and leading a team of employees who tackle complex technical problems sounds like something you're interested in, a day like the one above could be in your future.

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