Who knew it was so tough to be a CIO in the countries of the British Empire? Australian CIO Glenn Archer resigned suddenly and without explanation last week, leaving behind only a tweet in farewell after only a year on the job. The same thing happened in Ireland in December, when its very first CIO, Bill McCluggage, resigned after just six months for the vaguest of “personal reasons.”
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Well, it turns out it’s not just the British Empire. It’s everywhere. Even though the Society of Information Management reported late last year that CIOs’ tenure in their current positions was 5.2 years, up from 3.6 years in 2006, it appears that CIO turnover remains an issue.
An article in last month’s Irish Independent noting McCluggage’s departure brazenly describes CIOs as emperors with no clothes, citing several surveys taken within Ireland basically describing CIOs as useless techies without much business sense: “disposable wafflers” was one phrase of description.
Is the problem confined to Ireland? Unfortunately, no. CIO and IT coach Larry Bonfante echoed the same ideas in CIO Insight a few weeks ago, citing “a general perception of IT as a business ‘disabler’ … viewed in many companies as the ‘Land of No and Slow!’ Everything seems to take forever and things don’t seem to get done at a high level of satisfaction.”
Worse, Bonfante argues that CIOs get the boot for the same reason we’ve been hearing for years: because they spend more time thinking about server upgrades than “driving new revenue opportunities.” I dunno, this is beginning to sound like a broken record to me. Surely, there must be some CIOs out there who understand the power they have to reshape their companies.
Maybe not. I was stunned to see yet another story this week slamming CIOs, this time in CIO Australia. No less than the new PwC’s Global State of Information Security 2014 report found that “18 per cent of Asia Pacific respondents see the CIO to be a hindrance when taking action to improve the effectiveness of information security within their organisations.” Think that’s a regional anomaly? The figure was only 2 per cent above the global average. In the region, the story continues, “the CIO is nearly as big an impediment to [security] as insufficient capital expenditures (almost 22 per cent), and a greater hindrance than insufficient operating expenditures (15.5 per cent).”
That sounds like something from The Onion: the position in charge of implementing security is actually making it worse.
I was momentarily encouraged by another headline, in Booz & Co.’s Strategy+Business, asking How to break the cycle of CIO turnover? But Booz’s analysts seemed to cite the same old chicken-and-egg syndrome. It depends on the culture; the CIO needs support from the CEO. But a company that values IT and gives an ambitious CIO room to run is ultimately going to find success. A company that denigrates IT is either going to escort its CIO out the door or just see that person leave sooner rather than later.
As Computerworld UK noted last week, citing a survey jointly conducted by two business schools, one German, one American, New CIOs Need at least Two Years to Take Charge. Research Joe Peppard, of the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin, refers to three distinct phases: “entry (getting to know the business and diagnosing IT-related problems), stabilisation (taking corrective action and building the IT leadership team) and renewal (CIOs build on their credibility to implement changes that position them as legitimate business leaders).”
That can even take as long as three years. It makes one shake their head and wonder just what kind of circumstances would drive a CIO out the door after only one.
Email CIO Next Community Manager Howard Baldwin if you’re a CIO who wants to spout off in an opinion piece on a technology-related issue like CIO tenure.