From Aspirational to Reinventor: where are you on your CIO journey?

By Vikki Millard

The role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) is constantly and rapidly evolving. Long gone are the days when a CIO would be expected to focus solely on the “information” part of their job title. Today, their responsibilities have grown to encompass everything from driving and enabling business strategy to improving customer experiences. CIOs need to be at the forefront of enabling reinvention, not just within their IT organisations – but across the entire enterprise.

In cooperation with Oxford Economics, IBM interviewed over 2,100 CIOs to better understand how the CIO function is evolving. In our report, More than meets the “I”,  we outline the evolution – and expansion – of the

CIO’s role in response to the challenging and changing landscape .  After in-depth discussion and analysis, three distinct types of CIO emerged:

  • “Aspirationals” (36%)
  • “Practitioners” (37%)  
  • “Reinventors” (27%).

Each of these represent a different stage of CIO development. Where do you currently sit on this spectrum…?


As the name suggests, Aspirationals are CIOs who are yet to realise the full potential of their role. They score lowest when it comes to “facilitating digital reinvention with an enterprise-wide digital strategy ” and “building a digital platform for the enterprise’s ecosystem of partners”. But, while they may struggle with digital transformation and don’t always seize new opportunities, Aspirationals still have great potential to adapt and become innovative leaders in their organisations.


Practitioners haven’t yet developed the capabilities to match their ambitions. And they are ambitious. Over one half of all Practitioners plan to launch new business models in the next few years. Some are ready to leap ahead by taking on more risk to “up their game” and disrupt their industry. In fact, Practitioners are the most likely to implement one of the most radical new business models – the platform model. This out-of-the-box thinking is a key strength, and the jump from Practitioner to Reinventor isn’t a huge one.


This is the definition of a top-performing CIO. Reinventors achieve higher revenue growth and profitability, and lead the way when it comes to innovation. Their IT strategy is in sync with their business strategy, and they’ve optimised their business processes to support their strategic intentions. They have redirected their resources to achieve new sources of scale (such as extending their partner networks) and they extract new value from ecosystems. Reinventors also lead the way in co-creation, achieving closer collaboration with customers, partners and other key stakeholders. What’s more, they’ve restructured their organisations (including office culture), to encourage experimentation and bring new ideas to the fore.

George Westerman, Principal Research Scientist at MIT, remarked, “There’s never been a better time to be a great CIO, and there’s never been a worse time to be an average one.” And we couldn’t agree more. Reinventors are the blueprint for the modern CIO – they equip their organisations with better strategies, employ emerging technologies, nurture talent and build agile cultures.

For a deeper look at the changing role of the CIO, and what makes a Reinventor, download your free copy of More than meets the “I” - the latest CIO Study from IBM.