Boosting CIO Tenure


My recent conversation with UniGroup CIO Randy Poppell got me thinking more about CIO tenure.

Our 2009 Role of the CIO study actually found that IT leaders were keeping their jobs for long than any time in the past seven years. (Click on the PDF icon in the story to view the full results--they're worth the read.)

But those findings don't always match up to the reality I hear from CIOs directly (and the tenures you can see from looking at CIOs' LinkedIn profiles, reading about departures, etc.).

Sure, IT leaders don't have total control of their destinies. I've seen plenty of competent, respected CIOs lose their jobs due to executive changes, mergers and acquisitions, or bankruptcies.

And we know that failing to seize opportunities, mismanaging budgets or suffering a data breach or some other calamity can quickly end a CIO's term. (And check out Susan Cramm's Harvard Business blog post for more thoughts on leadership failures.)

UniGroup's Poppell has served in his role for nine years, and several years back he picked up responsibility for the $2B company's strategic planning. I asked him what he thinks has kept him safe in his seat for so much longer than most of his peers. Here's what he said:

There are probably two things. The first is building a collaborative relationship with the business. It's getting involved with them on a day-to-day basis and having a relationship that allows them to call on you to help solve problems. The opportunity to participate with the business in their strategic planning is also important.

The other piece is around execution. A lot of CIOs get in trouble when they're not able to execute effectively on technology projects that enable the business. If you're going to be involved and work with the business, then they expect you to deliver on the things you've helped craft from a strategy standpoint. I've had the good fortune to work with business people that value what they can do with technology and the problems they can solve. My team has lived up to every expectation in terms of execution--and I'd like to think that on some major projects we've exceeded expectations.

Collaborate with the business to build a strategy, and then go out and execute on it. We all know that this is what CIOs are supposed to do, but all too often they fail.

What are the biggest job-ending mistakes you've seen CIOs make? Sound off in the comments section below.


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