Want to head a university IT department? Pick one of these titles
Chief information officers at colleges and universities have carried a variety of titles over the years—so much so that it seems what they’re called evolves as quickly as their responsibilities in the role.
Dr. Wayne A. Brown addresses several of these in his report “2013 Study of the Higher Education Chief Information Officer Roles and Effectiveness,” the latest in a 10-year study of the position.
“When you look at the report for the variety of titles that people carry, there are still a lot of different titles out there,” says Brown. “When I ask the question, I say, ‘Is CIO included in your title?’ They may be ‘vice president and CIO’ or ‘AVP and CIO,’ but there are still a lot of different titles out there.”
The list of titles in use over the years ranges from vice president/chancellor and assistant/associate vice provost to manager or director, and even includes such variations as chief technology/information systems/information technology officer. Despite the fact that as many as 48% of respondents referred to themselves as “CIO” in 1990, the title was absent from lists of reported official titles. As recently as 2003, a majority of senior IT executives in higher ed—33%—held a “director” title, trailed closely by the 32% who were officially “CIO.”
The title hit a low point in 2005 when its usage fell to 12%, but today, CIO is the most common title, listed by 50% of respondents, while director, now second-most-common, is carried by only 17%.
“A lot of people wanted to be CIOs. They thought ‘chief information officer’ was the title to have,” says Brown. “I think it’s one of those things where the question’s been answered, and I think the answer is it should be ‘CIO.’”
Brown also notes that as technology never remains static for long, the responsibilities of the role have evolved almost as much as the title. “Technology is just integrated into everything we do now,” he says. “As technology has become more important to the institution, the CIO position and the IT department have become more important to the institution. If technology had not spread so quickly and so widely, I’m not sure the CIO position would be where it is today.”
Of course, CIOs aren’t the only senior executives to be involved in debates over the proper official title for their positions. After all, titles like “chief personnel officer” and “chief marketing officer” are often debated in departments like human resources and marketing.
“I think every area has that stuff going on,” says Brown. “Except for maybe chief financial officers.”
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