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Tech Buying Basics Role of the Week: the CIO

By Derry Finkeldey | October 17, 2022 | 2 Comments

Tech Buying BehaviorPersonasGo-to-market

The lines continue to blur

This week, we’re looking at a role we all think we know well: the Chief Information Officer, or CIO.  This is another role about which we could ask ‘when is a CIO not a CIO?’ To paraphrase a well-known Australian ad from the 1980s, “CIOs ain’t CIOs”.

I’ve had more interest this year from marketers looking to refresh their understanding of the CIO as a buyer persona. It’s timely. We’ve been seeing this title pop up in places we wouldn’t have expected to see it. It’s popping up consistently across multiple studies, so we think it’s a thing and not just a vagary of a particular survey. It’s another outworking of the Democratization of Technology.

We’re seeing this title emerge more consistently in lines of business outside of central IT. Examples include the CIO of Marketing or the CIO of Finance. In one respect, this is a complication.  These CIOs are chiefs of their department, but not a “C-level” executive reporting in to the chief executive of an organization, as we generally understand it. It also means that there may be more than one CIO to target in an organization.

Considerations for Organizational CIOs

As outlined in Leadership Vision for 2022: CIO, CIOs now share accountability for the outcomes of digital initiatives with their business leader peers. These shifts mean that CIOs are prioritizing business composability and models which enable that shared accountability.

CIOs and CxOs Share Democratized Technology Leadership Responsibilities
CIOs and CxOs Share Democratized Technology Leadership Responsibilities


Our buying research shows that CIOs are more likely to buy directly from a vendor than other C-level executives, which may reflect vendors’ aggressive targeting of CIO roles. CIOs were also significantly more likely than other C-level execs to say that funding came entirely from the IT organization. (With one exception that CTOs were even more likely to say this than CIOs).

Organizational CIOs are significantly more likely to prioritize security capabilities when comparing offerings in a purchase, followed by performance.

Interestingly, 70% of CIOs reported that business unit IT folks were involved the substantial tech purchases they were involved in.

Considerations for BU CIOs

BU IT leaders sit in the functional area and see everything through the lens of their business unit. They are likely to be laser-focused first on value to their function ahead of value to the enterprise. Your job will be to ‘lift up their eyes’ so that they can get approval for their initiatives by aligning with the organization’s priorities.

We have included these leaders in an exciting study we currently have in field and will speak to as the results come in. Keep your eyes out for more to come!

As technology is democratized throughout organizations, responsibility for technology is being federated throughout the business. What this means for you, as an organization marketing and selling to CIOs, is that you need to know what their remit encompasses as that determines the lens through which they will assess your ability to help them. The first question for you to answer in your targeting strategy is whether you will be working predominantly with the organizational CIO, or a business unit IT leader “CIO”.


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  • This distribution of tech buying responsibility across functional org type and line of business org lines creates a need for all those leaders to try and work in collaboration to make tech buying decisions that avoid conflicts if these leaders all make decisions with no coordination and cooperation.

    The approach that would help this is the Art of Alignment approach to decision making as laid out in the book “The Art of Alignment: A Practical Guide to Inclusive Leadership” which is reviewed here in Forbes;

    The team collaboration tools that have succeeded to date like Teams, Slack, Zoom, GSuite, etc., lack the needed sophistication in guiding leaders and teams consistently to good decisions. Art of Alignment process, when it’s implemented in all those tools, will add the needed “simple sophistication” that’s needed.

    • Thanks for the recommendation, Roger. Certainly agree that much of the onus is on the buying organization.

      I also think it presents an opportunity for providers that have an aligned view and operation across their customer-facing units, as well.