More longevity for CIOs

As companies finalize their IT budgets for next year, some CIOs are finding themselves eyeing their calendars for an altogether different reason: to mark the increasing amount of time they’re spending at their current jobs.

Consulting firm Meta Group Inc. said its research shows that CIOs currently are staying in their jobs for an average of 3.5 years. Although survey data measuring how job tenures have changed in recent years isn’t readily available, seven CIOs and several technology analysts recently said anecdotal evidence indicates that longevity rates are on the upswing in corporate IT departments.

There are several factors contributing to the higher CIO retention rates, they noted. For starters, many CEOs have tried to maintain stable management teams because of the weak economy, in part to reassure skittish investors. The economic problems have also reduced the amount of job-hopping by IT executives.

There’s less churn among CIOs now than there was during the dot-com boom, when all types of IT professionals moved from job to job, said Damien Bean, vice president of corporate systems at Hilton Hotels Corp. in Beverly Hills, Calif. “CIOs that have done an effective job of aligning technology with business requirements seem to be hanging around longer to see through on those efforts.”

Tech-Savvy CEOs

In addition, the CIOs said CEOs and chief financial officers have become more tech-savvy and increasingly recognize the importance of giving IT leaders enough time to follow through on the technology strategies they have implemented to support long-term business objectives. Corporate executives “have realized the strategic nature of technology,” said Heath Daughtrey, vice president of IT services at Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. in Las Vegas.

“Part of it is that there aren’t a lot of (job) opportunities in the market right now,” said Mike Lecours, information systems manager at The Gund Co., a St. Louis-based maker of electrical products. “But management is also recognizing that stability is needed to help IT leaders execute on the business’s strategies.”

Tim Monteith, who has been CIO at Domino’s Pizza for nearly three years, said the restaurant chain’s CEO “has formed a team that has been trying to drive the company in many new directions, and that doesn’t happen if you keep flipping leadership all the time.”

Less Volatility

Furthermore, industry-specific factors may be contributing to lengthier CIO tenures. For example, among manufacturers, “a lot of ERP implementations weren’t successful, and the CIOs got fired for that kind of thing,” noted Paul Klein, CIO at Rich Products Corp., a Buffalo-based maker of frozen foods. But now that many companies have completed such projects, “there isn’t as much volatility,” he said.

For their own part, many CIOs have developed a better understanding of how to run a business, said Steve Scott, vice president of IT at Vision Service Plan, an eye care benefits provider in Rancho Cordova, Calif. Scott, who will have been in his position for three years in January, said he hopes to “drive that (figure) up.”

Howard Rubin, executive vice president at Meta Group in Stamford, Conn., said he sees a different set of dynamics at play. CIOs who have met the cost-cutting pressures imposed by senior management over the past two years “have either been retained or promoted,” he said. “Those that didn’t got the boot.”

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