Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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8/6/2008
03:07 PM
John Soat
John Soat
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How Long Do CIOs Last?

It's not for nothing CIO has been said to stand for "career is over" -- the tenure at the top of the tech pecking order has been notoriously short. However, according to our Tomorrow's CIO analytics report, more than half of tech chiefs (53%) say they've been in their jobs five years or more. Does this signal a new age of job security for CIOs?

It's not for nothing CIO has been said to stand for "career is over" -- the tenure at the top of the tech pecking order has been notoriously short. However, according to our Tomorrow's CIO analytics report, more than half of tech chiefs (53%) say they've been in their jobs five years or more. Does this signal a new age of job security for CIOs?Here's the breakdown:

How many years have you been in your current position?

Less than a year -- 5% One year up to 3 years -- 23% 3 years up to 5 years -- 19% 5 years or more -- 53%

Data: InformationWeek Analytics survey of 537 CIOs/VPs of IT

Still, that number of five-year-or-more veterans is down six percentage points from the survey we did a year ago (59%), which might have something to do with the aging baby-boomer bulge. Almost two-thirds (64%) of this year's survey respondents say they're between 44 and 65 years old.

Chris Patrick, who's a partner with executive recruiter Egon Zehnder, and runs its global CIO practice group in Dallas, says he's not aware of any added life expectancy to the CIO position. "I'm seeing a fluctuation between 2-1/2 years and the three-year mark," he says, which is where the job tenure's been for several years now. Patrick says the economics of the industry the CIO is in plays a role in how long that person lasts -- either because of attrition, compensation, or job satisfaction.

Also, the CIO is being looked to as a transformational agent. "I'm seeing a lack of patience for individuals who can't deliver results quickly," Patrick says. "They hired you to have impact. You can't go in and lay out the five-year program that kicks in in year four."

It's interesting to note that 5% of our survey respondents say they've been in their jobs less than a year, which may indicate a new -- and needed -- wave of tech leaders coming into the workforce or another round of CIO musical chairs.

In your experience, how long do CIOs normally last in their jobs? And what are the most important factors in that career longevity?

"Tomorrow's CIO" is the theme of our upcoming InformationWeek 500 Conference, Sept. 14-16, in Monarch Beach, Calif. You can register for the conference here.

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