CIOs Uncensored: Why Are There Both More And Fewer CIOs?

Churn continues in the CIO ranks, while more companies create CIO positions.

John Soat, Contributor

November 16, 2007

3 Min Read

Have you noticed an uptick in the number of CIOs getting the ax lately? Here are some telltale signs: The "CIOs only" line at Wal-Mart is empty; the pots at CIO poker night are skimpier and skimpier; and your CIO Christmas card list has more cross-outs than your 2008 budget.

The reason I ask is that there have been a few high-profile CIO departures of late, most notably Stuart Scott of Microsoft, who was let go earlier this month for "violation of company policies," according to a terse statement from the company. My colleague John Foley pointed out in a recent blog post that Guy Chiarello. a divisional CIO at Morgan Stanley, left his post sometime in the last few months. And Orbitz Worldwide, the online travel site, is eliminating its CIO spot--and its CIO, Bahman Koohestani--in order to "create efficiencies in the organization," according to a spokesperson.

The CIO position has always been a volatile one: The old joke is that CIO stands for "Career Is Over." But is it more volatile than ever? The answer is no ... and yes.

According to the Society of Information Management's recent survey of CIOs and senior IT executives, the average CIO tenure is going up: Last year, it was 3.6 years; this year, it's 4.1. Time in the job was about evenly split between freshmen and seniors: 28% of survey respondents indicated they'd been in the job for a year or less; 27% said seven years or more.

But Bruce Rogow, principal of consulting firm Vivaldi Odyssey and Advisory, says he's alarmed at the increase in CIO turnover recently. Rogow tracks the CIO position through an ongoing series of interviews across the country. "Since the June timeframe, at least 30% of the folks I've been talking to are no longer there," Rogow says. A former executive source is either gone from the position when he calls, Rogow says, or tells him something to the effect of, "I'm transitioning out of here in the next 30 days; do you really want to see me?"

Alan Guibord agrees. Guibord is chairman of The Advisory Council, an IT research and consulting firm, and a former CIO at several large companies. He says he's being contacted by an increasing number of CIOs who have lost their jobs and can't find work. "I continually get reference checks for these guys," he says. "And they can't get jobs."

The irony is that while there seems to be considerable churn in the CIO ranks, the number of CIO positions is actually growing, Guibord says. Companies that never had CIOs are seeking them out, in particular small and midsize companies and those acquired by private equity firms, he says.

Companies like Brown Shoe, which operates the Famous Footwear retail chain. Last week, Brown Shoe announced it had hired Joe Caro, a former CTO at Citigroup, for the newly created position of senior VP and CIO. A Brown Shoe spokesperson said, "Our information systems needs are evolving as our business grows globally, and adding a CIO ensures we have an even stronger strategic leadership team in place to implement the right technological resources at the right time."

Quick question for Caro: Does your office have a corner view--or a revolving door?

Share your thoughts at our new blog, CIOs Uncensored, or contact me at [email protected] or 516-562-5326.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page.

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