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Selling to the CIO

It’s not always easy to sell technology. Here’s a guide for tech marketers to best understand who the CIO is, what they are focused on, and how to engage with them throughout the purchase process.

What does CIO stand for?

When selling to the CIO, it’s first important to understand what the CIO stands for – Chief Information Officer. This is a senior executive role within an organization that is responsible for the management, implementation, and use of information technology (IT) and computer systems to support the organization’s goals and objectives. The CIO is typically responsible for overseeing the organization’s IT strategy, infrastructure, security, and operations, as well as managing the IT department and staff. include leadership, business drive, willingness to learn, communication skills, and technologically adept.

Get inside the minds of CIOs

What other titles, besides CIO, can be used for the head of technology in a company?

In addition to the CIO, there are several titles that can be used for the head of technology in a company, depending on the organization and industry. While selling to the CIO will continue to be important, here are a few other titles that can be technology leaders:

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

This is a similar role to CIO, but with a greater emphasis on technology strategy and innovation. According to Foundry’s 2024 State of the CIO research, 56% of organizations say their CTO reports to the CEO, followed by the CIO (35%).

Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

This title is often used for the person responsible for managing an organization’s information security program.

Chief Digital Officer (CDO)

This role focuses on driving the digital transformation of an organization and leveraging technology to create new business opportunities. The CDO reports to the CIO (44%) and the CEO (40%).

Chief Innovation Officer (CIO)

This title is sometimes used for the person responsible for driving innovation within an organization, often through the use of technology. The Chief Innovation Officer mostly reports to the CEO (57%) or the CIO (26%).

Head of Technology

This is a more general title that can encompass a range of technology-related responsibilities, such as overseeing software development, infrastructure, and operations.

Director of Technology

This title is similar to “Head of Technology” and typically involves managing a team of technology professionals to support an organization’s technology needs.

It’s worth noting that these titles can vary widely depending on the company size and industry, and there may be other titles used for similar roles as well.

How many IT decision-makers are there in the United States?

In order to find out the number of IT decision-makers there are in the United States, we combined data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Foundry’s Role & Influence of the Technology Decision-Maker research to estimate that there are around 5.14 million people working in the computer and information technology occupation. However, it’s worth noting that the economic landscape and pandemic may have impacted job growth in this sector over the past three years. It’s also important to keep in mind that these numbers are specific to the United States, and employment trends may vary by country.

How many CIOs are there in the United States?

It’s difficult to determine an exact number of CIOs in the United States as it can vary depending on how one defines the role and the specific industries or organizations being considered. However, it can be helpful to know the addressable market when selling to the CIO. According to Foundry’s Role & Influence of the Technology Decision-Maker research, 55% overall organizations have a CIO in their IT department. This increases to 64% for organizations with more than 1,000 employees and is 44% for organizations with less than 1,000 employees. Combining this data with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for number of organizations by company size in the U.S., we can gather that there are approximately 105,000 CIOs in the U.S.


What is the role of the CIO?

The role of a CIO is to oversee the technology strategy and operations of an organization. The CIO is responsible for ensuring that the organization’s technology infrastructure is aligned with its business goals and objectives, and that technology is used to drive innovation, improve operational efficiency, and support business growth. Due to the current business landscape, 75% of CIOs say that their role was elevated due to the economy and this visibility within the organization is expected to continue – 78% of their line of business counterparts agree.

It’s important to remember some of their key responsibilities when selling to the CIO:

  • Technology strategy: The CIO is responsible for developing and implementing the organization’s technology strategy, including identifying emerging technologies, evaluating technology vendors and solutions, and aligning technology investments with business objectives. Foundry’s  found that CIOs currently spend time aligning IT initiatives with business goals, and plan to spend more time driving business innovation and redesigning business processes in the next one to three years.

  • Information security: The CIO is responsible for ensuring that the organization’s technology infrastructure is secure and that cybersecurity risks are managed effectively. In fact, security management is the number one activity that CIOs say they spend their time on in their current role and is the number one tech initiative driving technology investment, however they plan to spend less time on security management in the next one to three years.

  • Data management and analytics: The CIO is responsible for overseeing the organization’s data management and analytics strategy, including data governance, data quality, and data analytics.

  • IT operations: The CIO is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the organization’s technology infrastructure, including hardware, software, and networks. Foundry’s State of the CIO research found that CIOs currently spend their time improving IT operations/systems performance and modernizing infrastructure and applications.

  • Digital transformation: The CIO is often responsible for leading digital transformation initiatives within the organization, including the adoption of cloud computing, the implementation of mobile technologies, and the development of digital products and services. Also found in our State of the CIO research, 87% of CIOs say they are more involved in leading digital transformation initiatives compared to their business counterparts.

  • Leadership and management: The CIO is responsible for leading and managing the organization’s technology team, including hiring and training technology staff, developing technology policies and procedures, and ensuring that the technology team is aligned with the organization’s business objectives.

Overall, the role of a CIO is critical in today’s digital landscape, and CIOs are playing a key role in driving technology innovation and business success. In fact, 88% of CIOs say that their role is becoming more digital and innovation focused. Learn more about the award-winning website CIOs turn to to stay up-to-date on industry trends as their role continues to evolve.

Is the role of the CIO becoming more important?

Yes, the role of the CIO is becoming increasingly important in organizations of all sizes and industries. This is largely due to the rapid pace of technological change and the growing importance of technology in driving business strategy and operations. In support of this, 85% of CIOs agree that the CIO is becoming a changemaker, increasingly leading business and technology initiatives. 

Some of the key reasons why the role of the CIO is becoming more important include:

  • Digital transformation: Many organizations are undergoing digital transformation initiatives to drive innovation and improve business agility. The CIO is often responsible for leading these initiatives and ensuring that the organization’s technology infrastructure is capable of supporting digital transformation.

  • Data and analytics: With the growing importance of data in driving business insights and decision-making, the CIO is often responsible for overseeing the organization’s data and analytics strategy, including data governance, data management, and data analytics.
  • Cybersecurity: As cyber threats continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, the CIO is often responsible for ensuring that the organization’s technology infrastructure is secure and that cybersecurity risks are managed effectively.


  • Cloud computing: Many organizations are adopting cloud computing to improve scalability, agility, and cost-efficiency. The CIO is often responsible for overseeing the organization’s cloud computing strategy, including cloud migration and management.
  • Innovation: The CIO is often responsible for driving innovation within the organization, including identifying emerging technologies and exploring new opportunities to leverage technology to drive business growth and success.

Overall, the role of the CIO is becoming increasingly critical in today’s digital landscape, and CIOs are playing a key role in driving technology innovation and business success. These are important factors to take into account when selling to the CIO. Check out our Voices of the CIO page to hear how two technology executives view their role today.

Better understand how the role of the CIO continues to evolve and and the CIO agenda in the exclusive State of the CIO webcast. Joined by Foundry’s Enterprise Consulting Director, two CIOs offer their perspectives and advice as it relates to the results of the survey.

What are the CIO’s top priorities?

It’s important to keep in mind the CIO’s top priorities when selling to the CIO. Their priorities may vary depending on the industry and organization they work for, however, some common top priorities for CIOs include:

  • Business alignment: CIOs need to ensure that the organization’s technology investments are aligned with its overall business objectives and goals. That is the third ranked activity CIOs currently spend their time on, and stays in the top five when thinking about three years from now. Strengthening IT and business collaboration is also the number two priority the CEO has for IT in 2024.

  • Digital transformation: CIOs are responsible for leading the organization’s digital transformation efforts, including the adoption of new technologies and processes to improve efficiency and customer experience.

  • Cybersecurity: CIOs need to ensure that the organization’s IT infrastructure and data are secure and protected from cyber threats. More than two-thirds (70%) of CIOs say that they anticipate their involvement in cybersecurity to increase over the near year.
  • Data analytics: CIOs are responsible for leveraging data analytics to gain insights into the organization’s operations and to support decision-making. It is no surprise that 54% of CIOs expect their involvement in data analysis and 61% for data privacy/compliance to increase over the next year.

  • IT governance: CIOs need to establish and enforce IT policies, standards, and procedures to ensure that the organization’s IT operations are efficient, effective, and compliant with regulations. Foundry’s 2024 State of the CIO research found that the second top priority that CEOs have for IT is to upgrade IT and data security to reduce corporate risk.

  • Innovation: CIOs need to promote innovation within the organization, exploring new technologies and approaches to support the organization’s growth and competitiveness. Thinking about how their involvement will shift over the next year, 48% of CIOs anticipate their involvement in product development/innovation will increase.

Overall, CIOs need to balance the strategic and operational aspects of IT management, aligning technology investments with the organization’s objectives while ensuring that IT operations are efficient, secure, and compliant.


What does the future of the CIO look like?

When selling to the CIO, tech marketers should have a grasp on what the future of the CIO looks like. CIOs are continuously tasked with researching and evaluating new technologies to see how they can fit into their organization and the business value expected from them. The modern CIO is grappling with legacy IT, making sure they extract the maximum value from their technology investments before retiring them, but also making sure they don’t have significant technology debt.

In order to best assess new and existing IT services, the CIO is planning on working with certain groups more closely – such as operations, finance/accounting, risk management/compliance, engineering, human resources, research & development, and marketing. They also anticipate their involvement in AI/machine learning (80%), cybersecurity (70%), data privacy/compliance (61%), data analysis (54%), and customer experience (51%) will increase over the next year. Take AI for example. IT executives are figuring out if they should embed AI into their services, run their own models, or work with data and AI vendors, while understanding how to manage privacy and risk of the platforms.

More than two thirds of CIOs also say that the creation of new revenue-generating initiatives is now among their job responsibilities. Gone are the days when they were solely functional leaders supporting other departments. CIOs strive to become business strategists – focused on driving innovation and guiding the business through technology changes. This is on par with how their line of business counterparts view CIOs. Close to half (41%) characterize the CIO as a strategic advisor, someone who proactively identifies business needs or opportunities and makes recommendations regarding technology and/or provider selections. A quarter consider CIOs to be consultants, evaluating and advising on business needs, technology choices and/or providers upon request.


What is the trajectory of technology spending?

According to Foundry’s yearly research, technology budgets have an upwards trajectory. More than half (54%) expect their budgets to increase, 35% expect them to remain the same and only 11% expect a decrease in 2024. However, there is no doubt that the US economy has been impacted and some companies may be cutting back on technology spending to reduce costs.

However, other companies may be increasing their technology spending to support remote work, digital transformation, and other initiatives that are essential for maintaining business operations during the pandemic. So, while some companies may be cutting back on technology spending due to economic challenges, others are increasing their investment in technology to drive innovation and stay competitive in an increasingly digital landscape.

Found in the State of the CIO study, tech decision-makers expect their technology budgets to increase in 2024 to support security improvements, keep pace with rising costs of technology and services, and due to investment in emerging technologies (such as AI). When asked about why they would expect a decrease in budget, the majority said company finances/performance and economic instability/uncertainty. Be sure to understand an organization’s technology budget plans before selling to the CIO.

Is your marketing scope region-specific? If so, it’s important to tailor your messaging – their technology budgets, investments, and priorities, may be very different in North America, EMEA or APAC. Explore Foundry’s resources to find out how to market to CIOs around the world.

Does the CIO control the technology budget?

In most organizations, the CIO has a significant role in controlling the technology budget, but they may not always have complete control over it. The level of control that the CIO has over the technology budget can vary depending on the organization’s structure, size, and industry. When asked what percentage of the total dollars their organization invests in technology products and services is directly controlled by IT, currently IT decision-makers say 44% and that increases to 49% in the next 3 years.

Typically, the CIO is responsible for developing and managing the technology budget, which includes identifying and prioritizing technology investments, negotiating vendor contracts, and ensuring that technology spending aligns with the overall business strategy. However, the actual approval of the technology budget may rest with other executives or committees within the organization, such as the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) or a technology steering committee.

Ultimately, the CIO’s role in controlling the technology budget will depend on the specific organization and the relationships between the various stakeholders involved in the budgeting process. We know that the CIO works closely with other executives throughout their organization, such as the Chief Technology Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Digital Officer, Chief Security Officer, etc.

A question in the State of the CIO study was asked to better understand how their technology budgets were handled. More than half (61%) say that the CTO’s budget is a part of the overall IT vs. 38% that say it is a separate technology budget. We see the largest percentage saying the technology budget is separate from the overall IT budget for the Chief Innovation Officer (43%). Looking at the Chief Digital Officer, 59% say their tech budget is a part of the overall IT budget, and this is the same for the Chief Data Officer (63%) and Chief Security Officer (67%). This insight into who controls the technology budget should be helpful when selling to the CIO.

Additionally, the 2024 study found that 70% of IT leaders say that departmental tech platform budgets will shift over to IT in the next year. We see these budget shifts taking place in operations, executive-level administration, finance/accounting, and human resources.

A one-stop shop for enterprise CIOs


What departments within an organization have technology budgets?

When selling to the CIO, it’s important to understand which departments besides IT have technology budgets, because that may influence the types of technologies they will purchase and who’s involved in those purchase decisions. In most organizations, technology spending is distributed across multiple departments and functions. Here are some of the departments within an organization that commonly have technology budgets:

IT (Information Technology)

This is the department responsible for managing the organization’s technology infrastructure, including hardware, software, and networks.

Operations

This department may have technology budgets for tools and systems to support manufacturing, logistics, and supply chain management.

Marketing

Marketing departments often have technology budgets for digital marketing tools such as social media management software, marketing automation platforms, and customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Sales

Sales teams may have technology budgets for sales enablement tools, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and other sales automation tools.

Finance

The finance department may have technology budgets for financial management software, budgeting and forecasting tools, and other financial systems.

Human Resources

Human resources departments may have technology budgets for HR management systems, applicant tracking systems, and other employee management tools.

Research and Development

This department may have technology budgets for research tools and equipment, as well as for software to support product development and testing.

It’s important to note that the specific departments that have technology budgets can vary depending on the organization and industry, and some organizations may have additional departments or functions with technology spending responsibilities. However, Foundry’s research does show that even when other departments have separate technology budgets, IT is still significantly involved in those purchases. The majority say that the department creates a short list of vendors and then confirms with IT prior to purchasing.

What industries spend the most on technology?

It’s also beneficial to understand which industries spend the most on technologies when selling to the CIO. Several industries are known for spending heavily on technology, including:

  • Financial services: The financial services industry, including banks, insurance companies, and investment firms, is known for being one of the largest spenders on technology. This is due in part to the industry’s heavy reliance on technology for trading, risk management, and customer service.

  • Healthcare: The healthcare industry has been increasing its spending on technology in recent years, with a focus on electronic health records, telemedicine, and other digital health solutions.

  • Retail: Retail companies have been investing heavily in technology to support e-commerce, mobile payments, and other digital channels. This includes investments in artificial intelligence, customer data analysis, and supply chain automation. Based on this year’s State of the CIO research, 67% of IT executives in the retail industry expect their technology budget to increase in 2024.
  • Manufacturing: The manufacturing industry has been adopting technology at a rapid pace, with a focus on automation, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase productivity. IT executives in the manufacturing industry expect their technology budget to increase in 2024 (61%).

  • Energy: The energy sector has been investing in technology to improve efficiency and reduce costs, with a focus on smart grid technologies, energy storage, and renewable energy solutions.

  • Media and entertainment: Companies in the media and entertainment industry have been investing in technology to support digital distribution, streaming services, and personalized content recommendations.

These are just a few examples of industries that are known for spending heavily on technology. It’s worth noting that technology spending can vary widely within each industry depending on the specific organization and its technology needs.


Do CIOs meet with technology salespeople?

Yes, CIOs often meet with technology salespeople as part of their job responsibilities. Technology salespeople are often responsible for selling hardware, software, and other technology products and services to organizations, and they frequently engage with IT and technology leaders, including CIOs.

CIOs are greatly involved in the decision-making process for purchasing technology products and services within their organization, and that’s a key piece of information when selling to the CIO. Their leadership is seen when determining the business need of a solution, evaluating products and services, recommending and selecting vendors, selling the product internally, and approving and authorizing the purchase. All of which include participation of technology sales individuals. 

Meeting with technology salespeople can provide CIOs with valuable insights into emerging technologies, industry trends, and best practices for implementing new technology solutions. However, CIOs are also responsible for ensuring that their organizations receive the best value for their technology investments and may need to carefully evaluate and scrutinize the products and services offered by technology salespeople before making purchasing decisions.

What is the best way to engage CIOs?

Engaging with CIOs requires an understanding of their responsibilities and priorities within an organization. According to Foundry’s Customer Engagement research, 96% of IT executives have responded to vendor outreach, and they were prompted when the vendor shared valuable content or information with them (47%), was knowledgeable about their specific business/specific challenges (47%), demonstrated honesty/transparency (42%), and described features or capabilities that stand out from their competitors (42%).

With that in mind, here are some more tips that can help you to engage with CIOs effectively when selling to the CIO:

  • Understand their priorities: CIOs are responsible for managing and implementing the technology infrastructure of the organization. Understanding their priorities and the challenges they face can help you to tailor your message to their needs and interests.
  • Demonstrate value: CIOs are often focused on achieving specific business outcomes through technology investments. Therefore, when engaging with CIOs, it’s important to be able to demonstrate the value that your product or service can provide in achieving those outcomes.
  • Keep it concise: CIOs are busy people, so it’s important to be able to communicate your message concisely and clearly. Avoid technical jargon and focus on the benefits of your product or service. IT executives are also more likely to respond to vendor outreach when they reached out at the right time and also showed respect for their time.
  • Build relationships: CIOs value relationships with trusted partners and suppliers. Therefore, it’s important to build a relationship with them over time, demonstrating your expertise and reliability.
  • Stay up-to-date: Technology is constantly evolving, and CIOs need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments. Therefore, it’s important to stay informed and up-to-date with the latest technologies and trends in your field.

By following these tips, you can effectively engage with CIOs and build long-lasting relationships with them.


When selling to the CIO, tech marketers must understand where CIOs turn to when educating themselves on technology tools and services. CIOs gather their work-related information from a variety of sources, including:

  • Technology content sites: Found in Foundry’s Role & Influence of the Technology Decision-Maker research, CIOs frequently visit industry-specific online publications to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices.

  • Conferences and events: CIOs attend conferences and events, both in-person and virtual, to network with peers, learn about new technologies and trends, and hear from industry experts.

  • Analyst reports: CIOs often rely on reports from industry analysts, such as IDC, to gain insight into market trends and technologies.

  • Vendor briefings: CIOs often meet with technology vendors, whether via phone, email, video conference, in-person, or via their website, to learn about their products and services and stay up-to-date on new developments.
  • Peers: CIOs turn to their peers both inside and outside of their organization for information. They do so in-person, via phone/email/video conference, or online communities and discussion forums.

  • Social media: CIOs use social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter, to connect with peers, follow thought leaders, and stay informed about industry news and trends.

  • Reports and data: CIOs rely on internal reports and data to track the performance of their organization’s technology infrastructure and identify areas for improvement. They also greatly rely on white papers to learn about new technologies and business needs throughout the tech purchase process.

  • Video: CIOs watch technology-related videos for business purposes to learn about in-depth product reviews, technology news/live coverage of events, industry research/tech analyst reports, how-to videos, and interviews with technology experts.
Connect with CIOs where they are

What type of content is most helpful to a CIO?

The type of content that is most helpful to a CIO may vary depending on their specific needs and interests. For example, from our , we know that 97% of IT executives are greatly interested in custom-tailored content and prefer it to be tailored based on their industry (53%), technology platform(s) already installed at their organization (51%), company size (34%), responsibilities (27%) and where they are in the tech purchase process (27%). So, when selling to the CIO, it is best to provide them with these options, however generally speaking, the following types of content are likely to be helpful:

  • Industry trends and insights: CIOs need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and insights in the technology industry. Content that provides analysis of industry trends, emerging technologies, and best practices can be helpful in keeping CIOs informed and enabling them to make strategic decisions.

  • Case studies and success stories: CIOs are often interested in learning from the experiences of other organizations. Case studies and success stories that highlight how other companies have successfully implemented technology solutions or overcame challenges can be valuable in helping CIOs identify potential solutions for their own organizations.

  • Product and solution information: CIOs are responsible for evaluating and selecting technology products and solutions for their organizations. Content that provides detailed information on product reviews, demonstrations, features, pricing, and implementation can be helpful in enabling CIOs to make informed decisions.

  • Training and education resources: CIOs are often interested in staying current with the latest skills and knowledge required to effectively manage technology operations. Training and education resources, such as webinars, online courses, and certification programs, can be helpful in enabling CIOs to stay up-to-date with the latest industry developments and best practices.

  • Thought leadership content: CIOs are interested in hearing from thought leaders in the technology industry, including experts in cybersecurity, cloud computing, and digital transformation. Thought leadership content that provides insights, analysis, and best practices can be helpful in guiding CIOs’ decision-making and enabling them to stay ahead of the curve.

Overall, CIOs are interested in a wide range of content that can help them stay informed, make strategic decisions, and stay ahead of the curve in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing technology landscape.

Ready to engage the CIO?

What are the most important things tech marketers should keep in mind regarding their customers?

Tech marketers should keep in mind the following things regarding their customers when selling to the CIO:

  • Customer needs: Tech marketers should understand their customers’ needs and pain points and design products and solutions that address those needs. They should prioritize customer feedback and use it to inform product development and marketing strategies.


  • Customer journey: Tech marketers should map out their customers’ journey and understand the touchpoints where and when they interact with the brand. They should use this information to design effective and custom-tailored marketing campaigns that reach customers at the right time and in the right context.
  • Competitive landscape: Tech marketers should be aware of their competitors and how their products and solutions compare to those of their competitors. They should use this information to position their products and solutions effectively and highlight their unique value propositions, through reviews, literature and demonstrations.

  • Technology trends: Tech marketers should stay up-to-date with the latest technology trends and innovations and understand how they are impacting their customers. They should use this information to identify new market opportunities and develop innovative products and solutions that meet evolving customer needs.
  • Brand awareness: Tech marketers should continue to work on increasing their brand awareness. CIOs are much more likely to consume content from a well-known and trusted brand because they believe their time will be well spent.

Overall, tech marketers should prioritize their customers and ensure that their products, solutions, and marketing strategies are designed to meet their needs and expectations. By understanding their customers’ needs, challenges, preferences, and behaviors, tech marketers can build stronger customer relationships and drive business growth.

Contact us to learn more about how to reach and engage this CIO audience: