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Meet the CIOs of the Fortune 500 — 2021 edition

October 28, 2020

After 2020, the role of CIO will never be the same. No one knows that better than the technology executives leading the largest companies in the U.S. 

Inside Track12- The New F500 CIO List-1

This group of leaders has been tested more this year than ever before. In 2020, we’ve watched the pace of innovation accelerate exponentially as technology became critical, not just in securing a competitive advantage but at a far more basic level — ensuring businesses could function in an all-virtual environment. Now, the CIO purview has expanded to include business continuity, organizational strategy and even HR. 

Suffice it to say, these leaders aren’t just the “tech guys” anymore. 

2020 Fortune 500 CIO eListOver the past few years, we’ve been monitoring shifts in the CIO role as we look at the executives who hold that position across the Fortune 500. This is our list as we head into 2021 (click here for your free download). Using our BI PRO platform, we were able to identify a few interesting trends. Click here to download the full list for free! 

The rise of the female CIO 

Inclusion has been a hot topic this year, and executive leadership has long been hailed as an area that’s ripe for a diversity overhaul. In the CIO role, there is some positive news to report: 22% of leaders on the list this year are women, which marks a small but noteworthy increase over 2018, when the number of women in the CIO role stood at just 20%. 

A few of those women are new to their roles — Nasrin Rezai, for instance, is now SVP and chief information security officer at Verizon Communications Inc.; and Bridget E. Engle is chief operations and technology officer with Bank of New York Mellon Corporation — and experts say the pandemic could have the unexpected side benefit of increasing the number of female CIOs overall. According to the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, which collected responses from more than 4,200 technology leaders across 83 countries: “More than two-thirds of organizations feel that being diverse has improved trust and collaboration in the technology team. The survey also hints that the flexible nature of remote working may prompt greater inclusion, but only time will tell.” 

Innovation acceleration 

When you look at the leading business priorities among CIOs this year (which you can do in our BI PRO platform), you see a common thread running across their key initiatives — and it’s not survival. 

The list includes innovation, accelerating digital initiatives and digital transformation. Work from home also lands on the list of priorities, but anecdotal evidence shows that’s not as much about the basics of ensuring employees have what they need to work remotely. It’s more a matter of ensuring business continuity and reimagining the future of work. As a result, more than six in 10 CIOs told the Harvey Nash/KPMG researchers they feel more influential at the end of 2020 than they did at the start. 

A recent CIO survey from Gartner supports that rising sentiment. 

“The support for remote work that the COVID-19 pandemic brought on might be the biggest win for CIOs since Y2K,” Andy Rowsell-Jones, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, said in the survey. “They now have the attention of the CEO. They have convinced senior business leaders of the need to modernize technology, and they have prompted boards of directors to accelerate enterprise digital business initiatives. CIOs must seize this moment because they may never get another opportunity like it.”

Dipping a toe into HR 

As we mentioned above, working from home remains a top priority among CIOs, largely because the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing companies to reimagine the future of work in ways we couldn’t have predicted back in March. But it’s no longer just about ensuring everyone has VPN access and a Zoom account: A recent survey from IDG research found that 37% of IT leaders have made “improving the remote work experience” a top priority. 

That involves analyzing the unique needs of your organization and its employees. It also requires a deep understanding of company culture and how technology can support your company’s values and strategic goals. We particularly like the way Fletcher Previn, CIO of IBM, summed it up back in April: “CIOs have an opportunity during the pandemic to keep organizations together, navigate stresses and strains and help employees come out the other side.” 

Bigger budgets and teams 

Outfitting organizations with the systems and platforms they need to function in a pandemic is expensive. 

According to the Harvey Nash/KPMG survey, global IT leaders reported a median spend of 5% of their IT budgets to deal with the effects of COVID-19. That amounted to about $15 billion per week during the first three months of the crisis. 

Now, IT leaders are expecting that spending spree to continue. The same survey found that 43% of technology leaders are expecting their budgets to increase moving forward, and 45% are expecting an increase in headcount, as well. 

We see those expectations playing out in our BI PRO analysis, as business priorities are centered around innovation, acceleration and growth. And if the pace of a pandemic reality continues, IT leaders will be looking to make investments in those areas fast as they look to remain not just competitive but viable no matter what comes their way. 

You can find more information about each of the executives on this list on the Boardroom Insiders platform, which is home to more than 21,000 profiles on executives at Fortune 1000 companies across the U.S. Our BI PRO platform takes the information in those profiles one step further, providing you with in-depth, real-time insights into what these leaders are focused on and where they’re headed next. 

For more information about how Boardroom Insiders could support your C-level sales, marketing or recruiting strategies, contact us today for a free demo

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Sharon Gillenwater

About the Author

Sharon Gillenwater

Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market, from Fortune 500 companies to independent non-profits, to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.