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.


4 Comments for "A Looming CIO Turnover Crisis?"

  • Gloria August 26, 2013 2:57 pm

    Thanks for your comments Butch. The study we cenudctod on multi-lingual talents proved that Filipinos, in general, have the natural ability to pick up a language and the accents to go with it (probability score of 0.7) However, what scored low is writing skills particularly if they are not written in English such as Chinese, Japanese (Kanji). If the schools can sharpen their focus in developing writing skills, the market potential for the Philippines will be much larger and transcend voice services.From the Chief Analyst

  • Ralph Redding February 25, 2011 4:56 pm

    I've worked in technology nearly 20 years, and the main challenge I see to the job of CIO is that in reality most problems are very complex and require time, talent, and sometimes complicated solutions. This is the best strategy for the company in the long run; however, often the CIO's who receive the accolades from upper mgmt are ones that can boil it down to something simple and offer a cheap, quick solution. When this happens, there is a positive reward in the short run, but several years later the CEO will see that the problem still exists because the solution was very over-simplified, and bye bye Mr. CIO; time for someone new.

  • David M Boatman January 20, 2010 9:26 am

    Today�™s CIOs have a unique challenge in the C-Suite. They must be knowledgeable as a technology leader, project/process manager, and a great people-person while at the same time be a savvy business person, with finance and accounting understanding, and the ability to comfortably participate in the boardroom. An effective and successful CIO needs to roll up their sleeves and get into the details of a complex problem or planning initiative, and the next day put the cuff links on and participates in the presentation of the five-year technology or application road map to their fellow members of the board of directors. Balancing an ever-shrinking budget, and developers and technologists that are expected to be on call on a 24/7 basis with no down time is one of the challenges of the office. However; a seasoned CIO that understands how to manage expectations of the customer--whether internal or external--will understand the challenge that a Secretary of State has in negotiating a multinational peace agreement. If this is accomplished, and the deliverable is on time or ahead of schedule and within budget, then they have performed well and will realize the reward for such a well executed performance. Communication up and down the chain is critical to the success this office...so who are you having lunch with today! Then, we start over for the next quarter.

  • Barry Cole January 19, 2010 9:28 am

    I act in interim executive roles for companies in transition leading areas including operations, finance and IT. Over past couple of years; as executives battle to make decision affecting the very life of their companies, I have been hearing something that I had only rarely heard before. Members of the executive team are increasingly instructing their division leaders to blame the technology for any deliverable not met. With recent expenditures in ERP, CRM and HRIS; the CIO is an easy target for a SVP-level sales or operations executive. For the CEO who has to explain failures to the board; offering up the CIO provides a real choice when delivering a plan to stem the failures. For the CIO who also leads process improvement the condition is even worse, the resistance of staff to accept change can easily be ignored in a challenging business environment. The CIO who is not able to perform as primarily an evangelist of process and day-to-day business value will have difficulty. The CIO who is not prepared to develop real KPI�™s with the business metrics to be the company�™s internal solution provider with a boardroom presence will be at risk.

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