Secret CIO: 5 Steps To That CIO Title - InformationWeek
IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing
01:15 PM
John McGreavy
John McGreavy

Secret CIO: 5 Steps To That CIO Title

I advise a frustrated reader on how to win the CIO title he wants and deserves.

Feeling overlooked for a big title adjustment? Read on.

Dear John: I can't believe the timing and relevance of your recent column, "Don't Get Taken for Granted." Don't get me wrong: I work for a great company, and my bosses (CEO and CFO) have given me great freedom. However, when I was asked (told) to take over IT four years ago as the IT director after being in finance for 10 years, I thought I'd be in a different place by now.

IT was a mess. No vision, no strategic direction and no communications. I pushed for and was given the chance to overhaul all of our systems with a major ERP project (Microsoft Dynamics AX). We're still implementing and making great progress, but it has been a monumental challenge overcoming organizational culture to implement not only a system, but also standard operating procedures across five organizations. We're also extending the product quite a bit, as it's not prevalent in our industry.

[ Fed up? Read Leaving IT: 4 Job Options For Frustrated Techies. ]

So here I sit as the IT director of an $800 million organization that I believe should have a CIO. Sure, I want more money, but I also am concerned that at 45 I may be losing my window of opportunity to gain the C title. Currently, I'm first in line to replace my boss, the CFO, when he retires in five to eight years. A lot can change in that time, and I fear that waiting will close the window for good if things don't work out.

My biggest issue is that I believe I'm doing the CIO job right now based on what job descriptions I can find. The primary goal of our ERP system has been to support the long-term growth and efficiency of our organization. Although I still have a fair number of specific tasks to do because of resource constraints, I think my value and the focus of my work over the last four years has been setting and implementing corporate strategies. What should I do? Stop worrying and be happy that I have a good job at a solid company, one where my opinions are valued and I'm in line for a big promotion in five to 10 years? Continue to press for the CIO title? Or start looking elsewhere?

Thanks and best regards,

Dear Frustrated:

You've summed up your options, but let's get into a few more details.

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First, waiting for the promotion is a waste of your time and life. You've been out of finance now for four years and have accepted the unenviable task of an ERP conversion. You should have delegated this job a while ago, so as not to be seen as ERP Man, which I bet you are.

Look around. Does the CFO have a key go-to person he/she relies on? The CFO's successor might be right in front of you (and not in the mirror). Unless there are some very strong commitments to you, I'd give the CFO option low consideration. Soups might get better with simmering, but careers don't.

Second, explore options 2 and 3, which are related. Press for the CIO title, making it clear you already operate at this level and are prepared to leave the company to secure this industry-recognized level of responsibility and authority. And be prepared to leave the company, ideally by securing a CIO job at another company.

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User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2013 | 6:36:28 PM
re: Secret CIO: 5 Steps To That CIO Title
At age 45 with 4 years of IT experience and in line for the CFO title, you might be a better fit for CFO. It sounds like the field you have the most education and experience in, maybe look for CFO opportunities. Contrary to the idea that people who are technical canGt lead, there are people out there with decades of IT education and experience with the leadership skills to be at the GǣCGǥ level. Remember throwing the last guy under the bus, might not sound like leadership to everyone. (GǣIT was a messGǥ) Best of luck in becoming a chief.
Melanie Rodier
Melanie Rodier,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/29/2013 | 3:53:00 PM
re: Secret CIO: 5 Steps To That CIO Title
Very solid advice on why being pro-active and attentive to what is going on outside your immediate environment is always important.
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2013 | 8:46:31 PM
re: Secret CIO: 5 Steps To That CIO Title
It occurs to me that this is great advice for anyone, not just for wanna-be CIOs.
User Rank: Author
1/23/2013 | 6:57:10 PM
re: Secret CIO: 5 Steps To That CIO Title
Excellent advice to take action on two fronts -- within the company and looking outside for opportunities -- and not just wait patiently for good things to happen. Best line: "Soups might get better with simmering, but careers don't."
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