Introducing the Business Information Officer

October 6, 2014

In the past, many CIOs took it for granted that working closely with other functional areas of a business was part of their job. A CIO is generally expected to not only have their own division, IT, buttoned up but also figure out how to manage IT solutions as they pertain to every other division.

This left CIOs feeling stretched very thin. Thankfully, a new position is slowly making its way into the IT world: the Business Information Officer (BIO).

What does a Business Information Officer do?
The major challenge for the CIO was developing a high level of expertise in areas like marketing, finance and human resources that could stand up next to the actual leaders of those business areas. CIOs are expected to be renaissance men and women, whereas other leaders are mostly focused on their narrow area of competence.

InformationWeek wrote that this is too much for one person to reasonably handle. They recommended creating a position, or positions, for BIOs. These BIOs don't take any of the strategic duties away from the CIO. Rather, they maintain relationships on the business side of things, keeping the IT department aligned with all other business areas. BIOs can develop the outside expertise required to communicate effectively with the other divisions and report their findings back to the CIO. That the BIO or BIOs are dividing their time equally between IT and other areas means the CIO can more easily make decisions without sacrificing the time and energy it would take to learn about all of the other parts of the operation.

The SEC hires a BIO
BIOs haven't quite caught on in every company just yet, but some early adopters are starting to experiment with the position. FCW reported that the CIO of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Thomas Bayer, was familiar with the BIO role from his time in the private sector and is implementing it at the SEC.

"Because they're tied into the overall architecture, the enterprise architecture and our data modeling, they also make sure that we aren't developing stovepiped applications for the divisions and offices," Bayer said.

He added that the BIO has sped up the IT department's time to market, improving relationships with customers and stakeholders.