THE CIO BEFORE ICT
It is a commonplace to state — although this does not mean that it is popularly
understood — that information management existed long before the computer; but
this usually goes no further, and rarely, if ever, proves to be a starting point for
analysis and insight.
The following chapters seek to examine the ways in which some key aspects of
information management can be better understood if focus is turned to the period
before the development of ICT and computer technology. In so doing the core
characteristics of information management, the role of the CIO, and the impacts of
ICT on organizational processes and sustainability are brought into focus against a
wider and more profound historical context.
Alistair Black takes a wide view, focusing on the forces and technological back-
ground behind the emergence of a speciﬁcally labelled ‘information’ function in com-
mercial organizations, coupled with the appearance of the role of ‘information ofﬁcer’.
The chapter by Rodney Brunt focuses on the way in which the gathering of
‘intelligence’ in the UK from the early 20th century led, by necessity, to several key
developments crucial to information management. Many of these advances were only
really implemented on a large scale during the world wars, often based on a for-
tuitous combination of exigency and serendipity.
Antony Bryant then places these two chapters in a wider context, underlining the
importance of developing a historical understanding of the ways in which informa-
tion management and associated roles and features appeared in the twentieth century.
Taken together this section not only contributes an important historical perspec-
tive on information management, but critically it also stresses the ways in which the
initial impulse and organizational motivation for the IM function have changed. As
Black states in his chapter — ‘[T]he identity of this early breed of information ofﬁcer
differed considerably from that of the late-twentieth century (and beyond) informa-
tion ofﬁcer whose role was very much deﬁned by the management of digital infra-
structure in the organization’. In some regards this can be seen as part of what
Beniger has termed ‘The Control Revolution’, with authority and inﬂuence moving
away from users and in favor of managers; but it can also be seen as an alteration in
the balance from the demand-side of information in favor of the supply-side. Rec-
ognition of this should lead to an enhanced and more equitable concept of the IM
function, and equally to the range of skills required by information specialists; thus,
also raising the question whether or not these functions and skills should all be
focused in one department, and under the aegis of the CIO.