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John Soat
John Soat
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IT Confidential: It's Lonely At The Top--But Not For Long

To quote singer-songwriter Randy Newman, it's lonely at the top. Fortunately, you're not there very long. According to a recent survey by Booz Allen Hamilton, CEO turnover in 1995, 1998, and 2000 through 2002 was particularly high among high-tech firms. Turnover of top execs at telecommunication companies averaged 12.1% a year; at IT vendors it was 9.7%. In comparison, energy and health-care concerns also had relatively high CEO turnover rates of 11.3% and 9.4%, respectively. Last year, telecom CEO turnover reached 15.6%, surpassed only by utilities, at 15.8%. Telecom led all sectors last year in firing CEOs, with 9.4% of the top execs receiving pink slips; IT came in fourth, at 4.7%. But in the five surveyed years between 1995 and 2002, the forced turnover rate was highest among IT firms, with 4.3% of companies giving their CEOs the boot; telecoms ranked second at 4.2%. In a statement accompanying the study, "CEO Succession 2002: Deliver Or Depart," Booz Allen Hamilton senior VP emeritus Charles Lucier said: "The CEO mystique has all but evaporated, and director activism has replaced crony capitalism in the boardroom."

Marc Benioff, the gregarious CEO of, last week was named co-chair of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee. President Bush named 25 new members of the committee, a brain trust on information-technology issues and the IT industry. The other co-chair is Edward Lazowska, the Bill and Melinda Gates chair in Computer Science at the University of Washington. Also named to the committee were Ruzena Bajcsy, director of the Center for IT Research in the Interest of Society at the University of California, Berkeley, and Peter Tippett, chief technology officer of TruSecure.

Speaking of friends in high places, this week MIT is holding its annual CIO Summit. Attendees represent companies that sponsor MIT's Center for E-Business and Center for Information Systems Research and include industry figures such as Aetna CIO Wei-Tih Cheng, General Motors chief technology officer Tony Scott, and Microsoft CIO Rick Devenuti.

John Thomas Flynn, former CIO of Massachusetts and California, has joined ICG Government, an IT-services firm founded by Don Upson, ex-technology secretary of Virginia, and Paul Brubaker, former Defense Department deputy CIO. Flynn was appointed state CIO by Massachusetts Gov. William Weld in 1994, and Gov. Pete Wilson tapped Flynn as California's first CIO in 1995, a post he held for three years. "John knows technology, he knows government," said Upson in a statement, "and he knows the power and importance of bringing the two together."

At least somebody does! Can Mr. Flynn please call the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the IRS and chat with them awhile? Industry tips, though, forward to or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about CEO turnover, pressing IT issues, or the government's technology scorecard, meet me at's Listening Post:

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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