The Unseen CIO – insights into the CIO persona revealed

Jessie Bland

10 Jul 2024

Innovation and emerging technologies are treated as both a priority and a challenge by business leaders. 

The C-suite is turning to the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to capitalise on new waves of change. Artificial intelligence (AI), for example, has broken through at the enterprise level, promising to transform cross-business functions and open up new revenue opportunities. 

And yet, technology vendors may be missing the opportunity to support CIOs through this crucial time – by failing to communicate with them effectively. 

Marketing and communications teams must acknowledge that no two CIOs are the same. 

And yet, typical persona profiling of the C-suite can often mean the complex and nuanced CIO persona is put into a singular ‘audience bucket’. 

Campaigns can fall down when there’s no acknowledgement of the nuances within the CIO role, difficulty engaging the right stakeholders from CIOs’ sphere of influence, and irrelevant media channels and content formats.

This approach misses a key point: CIOs are humans too. The result can be ineffective communication and missed opportunities for the B2B technology companies looking to engage CIOs. 

What if you could account for the different leadership styles of the Chief Information Officer? Their risk appetite towards AI adoption? Or even their hobbies and personal interests?

For technology vendors, changing the approach to audience profiling would create the chance to speak to CIOs far more effectively.

To tackle this problem, Harvard has explored the drivers and influences of this pivotal C-Suite position with research partner Vitreous World.

Unveiling the Unseen CIO personas

The study goes beyond other industry reports you’ll see in the market. Rather than just focusing on a CIO’s immediate business priorities and a view of market trends, we’ve got under the skin of the people behind the job title.

First off, let’s start with the positives: CIOs are very ambitious and passionate about what they do…

  • 77% of CIOs have ambitions to be CEO in the future
  • 90% of CIOs feel valued in their roles
  • 81% of CIOs would recommend the job as a career path for young people

However, there is another side to how CIOs perceive themselves:

  • One in three CIOs (33%) feel underutilised in their role
  • Some 80% of CIOs agree their role is more strategic than most of their colleagues realise
  • 28% of CIOs admit their role/career has had a negative impact on their mental health

There’s a tension between overall optimism about their position, with how Chief Information Officers are being harnessed within an organisation – and it creates an opportunity for the vendors looking to sell to them. 

Now that we’ve looked at some of the factors shaping all CIOs, let’s dive a level deeper…

Exploring the Unseen CIO personas

Our Unseen CIO research has found the CIOs of today are made up of four distinct personas. While every individual is unique, they will tend to gravitate towards one of these categories depending on their leadership style and priorities. 

Based on the findings we can deduce their content consumption habits and their biggest influences on technology purchasing decisions. 

Even more so, company size and industry are factors shaping each of these groups – gold dust for marketing and PR teams who want to increase their overall effectiveness and engagement with this crucial audience. So, consider how these CIO persona insights can personalise an ABM campaign, or how you might adapt your channel strategy on social media to reach different CIO personas.

Combining this deeper understanding of a CIO with their drivers and influencers within the tech-buying process allows marketing and PR pros to better connect with this audience. In turn, this will increase the effectiveness of your programmes and campaigns while supporting your commercial objectives. 

Want to find out more? Download your free persona report using the button above, and book a session with Harvard’s Strategy & Planning team to discuss how you can utilise the Unseen CIO personas.