The New CIO: Hire From Outside, Or Promote From Within?

By tapping an outsider for its open CIO slot, Cummins decides not to practice what it preaches -- or at least what its former CIO preached.

John Soat, Contributor

April 7, 2008

2 Min Read

By tapping an outsider for its open CIO slot, Cummins decides not to practice what it preaches -- or at least what its former CIO preached.Cummins, an $11 billion engine manufacturer, has hired a new CIO. He's Bruce Carver, who will join Cummins on April 21 and will report to Tom Linebarger, executive VP and president of the company's power generation division. Carver joins Cummins from auto parts maker Dana Holding Corp., where he had been VP and CIO since September 2004, according to a statement by Cummins.

What's interesting here is that Cummins' previous CIO, Gail Farnsley, who left the company in February to go to Purdue University where she is establishing a new research organization called the Center On Technology & Society, had been very proactive in her efforts to develop IT leaders from within Cummins, a project to which she applied her rigorous training in the Six Sigma management discipline. In an interview with InformationWeek, she said this about her company's need to develop IT management talent internally:

We were looking at where the company's heading in terms of growth, and we wondered, do we have the right leaders in place to meet that growth challenge? Also, in the last six or seven years, the demographics of IT leaders have changed. And we were looking outside the company for IT managers, which isn't a good thing. We weren't developing our people internally.

Some insight as to Cummins' motivation in hiring an outsider can be gleaned from the company's press release, in particular a statement by Linebarger.

"Bruce brings a great deal of IT leadership experience, much of it in automotive-related businesses, which will be invaluable to Cummins as we pursue our ambitious growth goals over the next several years," Linebarger said. "Bruce has managed large, global IT organizations and has a track record of delivering solutions that support the business goals of the companies for which he has worked."

That would suggest that Cummins -- or Farnsley -- had been unsuccessful in the attempt to develop IT leadership talent, at least to the level that could take over the CIO position when Farnsley left. It's one thing to be a divisional CIO, another to run the entire IT organization in a multibillion-dollar company, I guess. Though, as Farnsley herself pointed out, a division in a multibillion-dollar company is itself a multimillion-dollar organization.

Is it better to try and develop top tech talent from within, or hire an experienced CIO from outside the organization? And are CIOs these days mostly being promoted to the position or brought in from the outside? What's your experience?

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