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CIO succession – Are you overlooking this critical strategic imperative?

Enterprise technology and IT services took a giant leap forward over the last two and a half years. The pandemic necessitated increased adoption while many businesses took the opportunity to accelerate digital transformation programs.

Now in a post-pandemic world where technology is at the heart of business models, innovation is speeding up, and breakthroughs are happening yearly rather than every decade.

The individual responsible for managing this technological explosion and implementing it in businesses is the CIO (Chief Information Officer). A role that has undoubtedly become one of the most important positions in the C-suite.

Based on our experience of the CIO talent landscape, we’ve looked at the challenges of the CIO pipeline, the talent market, and the criticality of effective succession planning to avoid significant costs to an organization.

How has the CIO role changed, and why is it so important?

With increased technology adoption, digital innovation, and cyber and digital threats on the rise, the CIO role is critical to an organization’s success and longevity. Since March 2020, CIO strategic responsibilities have expanded;

we’re seeing a growing demand for technology leadership, and boards are regularly turning to them for advice.

Their remit is increasingly cross-functional and covers everything, from the business model to product development. To contribute at this level, the CIO requires broader leadership capabilities than ever before; they must be strategic, insightful, resilient, agile, and able to influence with impact at Board-level.


CIO succession – are you overlooking this critical strategic imperative?

Cyber and Digital risks are on the rise Some of the most critical threats to organisations relate to technology and digitalisation, and these risks are increasing. Given these challenges, how critical is the CIO role? Find out in our latest whitepaper.


What is the talent pipeline of the CIO function?

Despite how critical the CIO role has become, organizational succession processes have not evolved quickly enough to respond to this new set of demands and expectations. With a talent pool comprised of technical experts and organizational development processes that usually reinforce the deepening of technical expertise over providing broader exposure and leadership development, it is not uncommon for organizations to lack appropriate internal successors who are ready to step up to the requirements of a group CIO role.

More frequently, we are seeing organizations having to look externally, even forced to hire interim CIO’s while they look for a more permanent replacement.

This can leave the organization vulnerable to external threats and missed opportunities while the interim gets up to speed, while also creating frustration, reduced morale, disrupted team dynamics and retention risk for top talent within the organization. This could be easily avoided with the right succession processes, and with poorly managed processes costing firms an average of $1.8 billion in shareholder value, this is an issue that should not be overlooked.

How hard is it to find high-performing CIO talent?

Competition for technology talent is fierce; a 2022 study by Gartner found only 29% of IT workers have a high intent to stay with their current employer and this includes those at the most senior levels. CIOs have comparatively shorter tenures compared with other C-level leaders, and our own research found that while just under a third of CIOs moved roles over the course of the pandemic, this figure has been on the rise since the beginning of the year (2022). With an average tenure of three years and 10 months, it is reasonable to assume that many CIOs will soon be looking to make a move as they approach the four-year mark.

In a competitive talent market, this may pose a challenge for businesses looking to attract top-tier CIOs, and equally, organizations that do not provide clear progression opportunities to those with the ambition and potential to step into the CIO role, may soon see their top talent seeking new opportunities.

How can Odgers Berndtson help?

Odgers Berndtson can minimize disruption through the interim process, filling the short-term gaps with a candidate that is right for your organization as well as hiring CIOs fit to deliver against strategic challenges. Alongside our thriving CIO executive search and interim practices, we have a robust and comprehensive approach to succession that can help you understand the readiness of the IT talent pipeline in your organization; identify those with the potential to grow, and provide support with development planning and interventions to get them ready, given the current and future strategic goals.

If you would like to discuss how our practices can support you with your search for a CIO or support with interim management, contact the authors, get in touch here or find your local Odgers Berndtson contact.

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