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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
05:39 PM
John Soat
John Soat

The CIO Cycle

It's not a new model from Harley-Davidson. It's the reason why some CIOs are losing their jobs. And here's what you can do to get off that particular treadmill.

It's not a new model from Harley-Davidson. It's the reason why some CIOs are losing their jobs. And here's what you can do to get off that particular treadmill.Alan Guibord is chairman and founder of The Advisory Council, an IT research and consulting firm. He's also the former CIO of Fort James Corp., where he helped with its acquisition by Georgia-Pacific in 2000. Before that he was the CIO of RR Donnelly, and before that the CIO of PictureTel.

Guibord has been talking with a lot of CIOs lately, and he says he's seeing a spike in CIO turnovers. One explanation is "the CIO Cycle." Here's how it works: A company hires a CIO for a particular need, a certain job, a specific project or set of projects. When that need is filled, job completed, project over -- bye, bye, CIO.

Smart CIOs recognize the signs of the CIO Cycle, Guibord says. So they solve the problems at hand, then move on to understanding the next set of issues and solving the next set of problems. For example, smart CIOs in the past researched the issues around outsourcing before the questions were asked of them.

On the other hand, those CIOs not staying ahead of the demand curve, not researching the next set of issues, are getting caught in the CIO Cycle -- chewed up, spit out, and with no way back in. "I've seen a lot of CIOs that lost their jobs and have been unemployable," Guibord says. "I continually get reference checks for these guys and they can't get jobs."

Still, that doesn't mean that the CIO position is in jeopardy, Guibord says. The average tenure of CIOs is growing, he says, to about five years. In contrast, the average tenure of the CFO is shrinking, to about two years. And the number of CIO positions is only going to increase in the future. "Companies that never had CIOs before are going out and seeking CIOs," he says. Companies acquired by private-equity firms in particular are the hottest sector for the CIO position, he says. "The growth [of the CIO position] is in private equity-sponsored companies and small to mid-sized businesses," he says.

How does that jibe with your experience? Is the CIO position gaining or losing ground -- where and how? And have you seen many CIOs succumb to the CIO Cycle?

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