The New Role of CIOs

By: Kristin Clarke

Dachis Group's Chief Strategy Officer and ASAE Technology Conference Thought Leader Dion Hinchcliffe on the new role of chief information officers in driving organizations forward.

"Helping chief information officers understand the importance of their role in driving forward the future of the organization and walking them into that decision-making process" are the best ways associations can use CIOs as their positions evolve, according to Dion Hinchcliffe, chief strategy officer for Dachis Group.

Hinchcliffe, a thought leader at the 2013 ASAE Technology Conference & Expo, December 4–5 in Washington, DC, sees the top role of today's association CIOs not only as managing the organization's technology portfolio, such as the underlying infrastructure and productivity applications, but also as "taking all the technology innovation and figuring out how an organization should move forward. Unfortunately, although we're in the midst of the biggest technology revolution in history, most CIOs get stuck in the keep-the-lights-on role because organizations can't be disrupted in their ability to work."

As a result, he worries that CEOs undervalue CIOs as "strategic assets who can use their ability to help leaders with their biggest problems" and instead fret about frequent application backlogs frustrating other departments. The issue has become so pressing that organizations are hiring CIOs for specific departments, such as marketing, that are desperate to introduce more technology organization-wide.

"Part of the problem is the lumping together of infrastructure and innovation into one bucket," Hinchcliffe says. "They compete for resources, time, and attention."

He foresees the rise of CIO-like positions, such as "chief customer officer" and "chief digital officer," responsible for digital innovation. "We'll see a clear differentiation between the CIO being responsible for existing infrastructure and the application portfolio and the chief digital officer looking at digital assets like data and how to wield it strategically."

Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a business journalist and writer for ASAE. Email: [email protected]

To register for the 2013 Technology Conference & Expo, visit

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "CIOs, Redefined."]

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.