Breaking the cycle of CIO turnover

Breaking the cycle of CIO turnover

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May 02, 2014
Tim Elkins IT Invades Business CIO

To get a more insightful view of the evolving role of the CIO, Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company) surveyed 60 CIOs of large multinational corporations as part of its inaugural CIO Success(ion) Study.

Finding and keeping talented CIOs is a challenge for many CEOs and boards, but factors like a lack of succession planning, unpopular reporting lines and a lack of C-level acceptance for major IT project can make it difficult for the CIO to succeed, leading to a job life cycle shorter than those of other senior executives. The Strategy& study uncovered some actions CIOs should consider  to improve their odds at success and lengthen their tenures within the organization.

In an article in Strategy+Business, authors from the Strategy& study reported that 70 percent of the respondents said the failure of a major IT project was one of the main reasons for the eventual ouster of a CIO, pointing out that these projects, “are typically big-ticket, multi-year, enterprise-wide programs involving new ERP, CRM, or core industry-specific solutions that promise to fundamentally change business performance and improve competitiveness.” Interestingly, the authors note that many of the CIOs inherited these projects.

Strategy& suggests that one way to break the cycle of CIO turnover is to have the CEO become more active in the search for a new CIO. If the CEO believes that the company’s IT and digital strategy is on track then internal candidates should be considered; otherwise, the authors suggest should that CEOs should look for candidates from outside the organization.
The research found that CIOs surveyed that report directly to the CEO prioritized enterprise-wide business value, while those reporting to CFOs were more likely to focus on controlling costs or automating operations. As a result of the research, the authors suggest that CIOs, “need to be encouraged to have a vision of how technology can help their company achieve its strategic goals. And they need to feel supported by the firm’s executive leadership to act on this vision. Almost 90 percent of the CIOs we surveyed said the top reason for moving to their current position was the new professional challenges involved. Right now, it seems that too many find that their actual work environment may not meet their expectations.”

I encourage you to click through to read the article, which also includes a brief video summary of the research. The authors reach the conclusion that companies benefit from strong IT leaders, but the trick is developing and retaining them.

What do you think, are companies doing enough to develop CIOs, and are they taking enough steps to define the role of the CIO so they can retain the good ones for years to come?

Chris Carroll is a freelance technology writer with over 30 years editorial experience. See more information about his background, including samples of his work and references, at

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Chris Carroll is a freelance technology writer with over 30 years editorial experience. See more information about his background, including samples of his work and references, at

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