The Reason Top Companies Replace CIOs Like Clockwork | IT Finance

Single Biggest Challenge CIOs Face Today

CIOs tend to change jobs at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, it’s not always by choice, but rather due to lack of IT finance cost clarity.

If you’re a CIO, that’s probably not news to you. You may even have been a victim of it yourself. A survey by Gartner Inc. pegged the average CIO tenure at just four years and four months. The terrifying reality is if you haven’t been shown the door yet, the chances are high you will at some point in your career.

Why are CIOs being asked to leave at such a high rate?

We call it the Pendulum Problem. And it’s the single biggest challenge CIOs face today.

The Pendulum Problem

The Pendulum Problem is endemic of the cyclical nature of many enterprise organizations’ IT budgets.

It’s typically the result of a new CEO or CFO with new ideas and priorities that lead the charge. But, it may also happen as decreasing budgets pair with increasing expectations to continually grow the organization’s technology.

Here’s how it works.

When a company is up, so is the threshold for IT investments. Flush organizations tend to hire tech-savvy CIOs to evolve the organization’s technology. And that goes well for a while, until revenue or bottom line profit becomes an issue. The tech-savvy CIO is then tasked with slashing budgets—a struggle for a CIO with little financial understanding, political savvy, or business leadership experience.

Unable, or unwilling to reign it in, the CIO is let go.

As a reaction, the organization typically hires a different type of CIO—one with a heavy business background. She’s brought in to rein in costs. And that goes well for a while, until the business is ready to invest in technology again. But the new CIO doesn’t understand the technology end of the industry well enough. She may keep the budget down by starving technology investment, which leads to a decline in organizational capabilities.

That precipitates the inevitable outage or security issue that leads to the firing of the business-savvy CIO.

The organization reacts by hiring a tech-savvy CIO to fix the issues, the pendulum swings, and the cycle starts all over again.

And on and on it goes.

What Every Organization Needs From Their CIO

The good news is, there’s something you can do to stick.

For today’s CIO, career longevity is determined by what Marianne Broadbent, associate dean of Australia’s Melbourne Business School, calls a “virtuous credibility cycle.” CIOs must create an environment in which the IT departments they lead consistently deliver positive results that are closely tied to their organization’s business strategy.

Today’s CIO faces pressure from all directions. Even if you’re not as experienced in either business or IT, you can still develop the skills you need to become an irreplaceable CIO to your organization. It’s a framework you can use to help lead the business—rather than react to its whims.

To survive and thrive in your organization, learn how to:

  • TELL STORIES: Determine and explain not just the cost, but the value of IT spend. Investigate your information, understand what it means, and provide meaningful insight with it that drives decisions.
  • DEVELOP TARGETS: Align technology needs and decisions with the business’ strategies and objectives. Identifying the core decisions the business is trying to make and provide insights to steer decisions in the most profitable direction.
  • IMPLEMENT PROCESSES: Build automated, calendared processes that collect critical data, and provide performance reports that address key business objectives.
  • LEVERAGE ANALYTICS: Make your data actionable. Learn to identify trends, predict demand, and forecast critical needs to improve business planning.
  • DELIVER ACTIONABLE REPORTS: Be a marketer for IT. Infuse your reports and memos with context, credible data, and analysis. And write them with business leaders’ priorities in mind to get them on board.

Move From Left Behind to Legendary

You can’t succeed as CIO just by being an effective IT manager anymore. You have to have well-rounded leadership qualities and personal influence, as well as business and organizational intelligence to make sure you’re in tune with your organization’s business goals.

And you need to develop them now.

That may seem like a tall order, but it’s absolutely imperative if you want to stop the pendulum before it swings in your direction. It’s critical actions like these that can take you from expendable to irreplaceable. And that’s what we all want to be, after all.

If you find you need a little help as you evolve into your new role as the rare, lasting CIO, we’ve created a brief and informative resource called The CIO Playbook to help guide you.

You can download it anytime and use it to go from legacy to legendary!

Get the CIO Playbook