Government // Leadership
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Companies Looking To Hire CIO 2.0

After months of gloom and doom, are companies again hiring new CIOs? Some executive recruiters say yes. And apparently, some of those employers want an upgrade.

After months of gloom and doom, are companies again hiring new CIOs? Some executive recruiters say yes. And apparently, some of those employers want an upgrade."CIO searches started picking up in the last 30 days or so," says Shawn Banerji, managing director at national executive recruitment firm Russell Reynolds in a recent interview with InformationWeek.

"Early 2009 was nuclear winter," says Banerji. "There was no investment in innovation and no one was hiring senior leadership," he says. "But that trend is changing significantly," he says.

The "paralysis, depression, lack of clarity is lifting," he says.

Companies are replacing CIOs who are on their way out, voluntarily or involuntarily, as well as starting to fill positions that might've been vacant for a while, he says.

"A number of CIOs searches are to upgrade or swap out" current IT leadership at a companies in a number of industries, including retail, banking and financial services, health care and education, he says.

"The financial services sector has had so much flux, change, turmoil," he says. "Companies are leading people out through the left door and bringing in new people through the right door," he says. "There's a lot of senior level turnover," he says, especially at financial services firm that received federal bailout money.

Meanwhile, in health care, another industry that'll be getting billions of dollars from the feds via stimulus programs, hospital groups, payers and others are also beefing up IT leadership for ambitious document management, electronic health record projects, he says.

In retail--a sector that's been really feeling consumers' economic pain-- the hunt is to find IT leaders that can help "better leverage technology in some cases to just survive," he says. Retailers are "pushing more assets online, trying to better manage the web as a channel" for consumer spending, he says.

In the education sector, public and private colleges and universities are trying to better leverage distance learning, podcasts and collaborative research projects, he says. They're looking for IT leaders who can help them do that.

And while each sector has its own mix of talent needs as it enhances its IT leadership teams, there are a few characteristics everyone seems to be zeroing in on, he says.

"Organizations are saying, 'we want a top IT leader to be a broad-based business executive, transformational" he says. That includes CIOs having technology vision--or the CIO having a keen ability to choose another person, such as a CTO, who's deeply focused on the latest technology trends, he says. But even if a new CIO has a CTO helping that technology vision, "it's the CIO who owns it" and will be held accountable, he says.

Also, now more than ever before, companies are seeking CIO candidates who understand governance issues, to ask "do we have the right tools to make the best decisions, manage risks, compliance, enterprise transparency?" says Banerji. There's "a bigger bulls eye" on many organizations these days, he says.

Companies, especially those that receive federal bailout money "are on the hot seat," he says. Those organizations in particular want CIOs who can understand how technology can be deployed to "comply with increasing public scrutiny."

While Beverly Lierberman, president of national executive recruitment firm Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, says she hasn't noticed any sudden surge in CIO hiring across most industries lately, there is heightened interest in levels below the top IT leadership ranks.

"I have not noticed an uptake in CIO recruiting. The majority of IT recruiting is at the Project Leader/Manager level and below," she says in an email interview with InformationWeek.

"The sectors that are the 'busiest' are healthcare and government," she says. These sectors "are seeing more recruiting than any others at the senior IT levels including CIOs," she says.

So, if things still aren't exactly hopping for all CIO wannabes looking to job hop anytime soon, at least there are opportunities out there for mid-manager, project leader types. "At the project level, there are openings in all sectors," she says.

"Projects that are 'hot' include deploying SOA--enterprise architecture, establishing and building PMO's, web based development, Business Intelligence development and CRM types of projects," she says.

"There is also a fair amount of ERP activity with SAP and Oracle. There is continuous work in IT security."

Know anyone looking for new IT leadership work? Tell us about it.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on the current state of IT salaries. Download the report here (registration required).

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