The Truth About CIO Tenure

CIOs may not last as long as CEOs in their organizations, but today their tenures are longer than ever, not too mention longer than a few other executives.

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COOs—Data on average COO tenure for 2008 was not available. However, research from executive search firm Crist Associates (pdf) showed that, in 2009, the decline of the COO role had reached a low point: Just 42 percent of Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies had a COO, the lowest percentage in 15 years.

Using this sampling of data, we see that CIOs in 2009 are faring remarkably well in terms of career management and longevity.

Career Moves in 2010

One might be wondering what effect, if any, the global economic recession has had on executive tenure. According to Russell Reynolds' analysis, the recession has had a curious, two-fold effect on executive turnover: "CEO and, consequently, CFO turnover has slowed in 2009 driven partly by the lack of M&A activity but also because Boards have chosen to stay with a tried and tested CEO through the downturn."

Those same trends could have also affected CIOs in 2009, especially those who have cozied up to their CFOs and CEOs.

As for 2010, CIOs have a lot on their proverbial plates: Figuring out the future of business applications, preventing costly IT disasters, doing more with less, and on and on it goes.

If the economy does rebound next year, there could be a higher rate of turnover among CIOs—but just like in 1996, many of these IT leaders will be vacating their posts not because they were fired, but because they will be pursuing new career challenges and job opportunities elsewhere.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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