INVENTION OF THE CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER (CIO) 

 

In these early days of the data processing revolution, strategic information power was very rare even in information intensive industries. In Dr. Gruber's survey of information technology in commercial banking William Synnott, then senior vice president at the Bank of Boston, as a client faced what was then a very common challenge in that he was largely missing during senior executive meetings that covered funding and strategy for strategic information. This was almost a universal challenge faced by information experts at this stage in the information processing revolution. In problem solving with Bill Synnott, Dr. Gruber conceived of the idea of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) that would give a senior level job title, which ranked higher than was common at that time. Synnott and Gruber wrote a number of articles, presented talks, and co-authored the Synnott-Gruber book, Information Resource Management: Opportunites and Strategies for the 1980s (Wiley, 1981), which helped to launch the CIO concept. This was recognized by the 1986 IBM Bulletin article, “Chief Information Officer: A Management Concept Whose Time Has Come:”

 

The high failure rate of investment in major technological innovation is evidence of the powerful forces that make success difficult or even unlikely. Consider the Bank of Boston, this was the tallest building in the financial district at a time when commercial banking leapt ahead in competence of strategic information technology. It was so powerful that the survival of the bank was in large measure determined by the fusion of the user understanding of the technology functionality and the technology experts understanding the business of the bank.

 

 

Dr. Gruber had significant time with the head of information systems at the bank in which they planned a number of options to achieve an effective transfer of technology in the division of the bank. Questions from this goal were “how to achieve the absolute requisites of managers in the division of the bank who would be the users of the new technology and the technology staff who would develop and support the technological innovation?” Mr. Synnott, CIO of the Bank of Boston, in one of his innovations to facilitate the transfer of technology for competitive advantage assigned information systems staff to the office space of some bank divisions and did not fill this post in office locations in other divisions. The survey results from this experiment showed a vastly better performance with an IS person located within the division.

© 2019 William H. Gruber