CIOs upgraded every three years

The role of CIO has never been – how shall we say – one of the most prestigious of top jobs, vying unhappily with that of HR director for the ‘lowest available status from a boardroom stipend’ award. But what the job lacked in kudos it could make up for in security of tenure. As the rate of turnover in the other ‘C-suite’ jobs got ever faster, the CIO was often one of the last remaining senior managers to have grown up with the company. In an age where CEOs and CFOs swap jobs every couple of years, the head of IT could generally be relied upon to supply some much needed executive continuity.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Well, not any more, if new research from EDS is to be believed. The giant US outsourcer reports that the average tenure of CIOs in the FTSE 350 is now a mere three years – the same sort of brief spell in charge that the other, more glamorous, occupants of the top table enjoy, too. So IT bosses themselves are now upgraded as often as the PCs on their employer’s desktops.

That’s a sobering piece of news when you consider that the big IT projects they manage can take that long just to complete, and far longer to start delivering serious returns. If, says EDS, the same CIO is to see through a project from conception to going live – never mind to making its money back – then it must be commissioned within 100 days of the executive joining. That doesn’t give them long to decide where the big bucks need to be spent.

On the other hand, you could take this as a signal that the CIO role’s day in the sun has finally arrived, and that good IT chiefs are now being poached as often as all the other top jobbers. A conclusion which the survey also seems to bear out – 76% of CIOs polled were recruited from outside their present employer. How long before ‘The IT route’ becomes as acceptable a path to the corporate summit as ‘The finance route’ and ‘The sales and marketing route’ are today?


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