A Looming CIO Turnover Crisis?


A new report on CEO turnover suggests possible hard times ahead for sitting IT leaders.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that a surprisingly low number of CEOs lost their jobs in 2009. That number dropped 17 percent from the previous year, according to the firm's 2009 CEO Turnover Report.

That's interesting enough, but when does the other shoe drop?

A blog post on LATimes.com gets right to it:

Challenger Chief Executive John Challenger noted that the decline in departures could be a result of companies trying to maintain a stable upper management until the economy settles down and begins growing.

"If and when it appears that the expansion is finally underway, there could be a surge in leadership changes, with companies opting for growth-oriented risk-takers over the 'just-keep-the-ship-afloat' leaders they favored in the latter half of the recession," he said.

If that happens, CIO turnover could easily increase, as new CEOs look to put together their own teams. We all know a CIO's tenure is short, probably one of the shortest of any other C-level function head. (Our 2009 Role of the CIO Study found that tenures are actually growing, but that could plummet just as fast as it rises.)

So what are you doing right now to demonstrate your value to your executive committee and board? Do you consider yourself a "growth-oriented risk-takers" or a "just-keep-the-ship-afloat" leader? If you've positioned yourself in the former, you're in much better shape.

Even though the economic recovery is uncertain, CIOs need to start shifting their thinking away from the recession and more toward what IT will do in the inevitable recovery. Budgets may stay flat in 2010, but that doesn't mean you should completely replicate what you did last year.

And what about aspiring CIOs? Challenger's assessment points to great opportunity for the ranks of up-and-coming IT leaders. If you're looking for a shot at the top IT job, you must demonstrate your business acumen and strategic vision, and understand what you'll have to do to retain top talent and motivate staff to reignite innovation while continuing to manage costs and boost productivity.

It's not easy, but the proverbial writing is on the wall.