by Meridith Levinson

The Interim CIO Jinx

Mar 29, 20072 mins
CareersIT Leadership

Recent CIO turnaround at Kaiser Permanente reflects a trend.

In November, health-care giant Kaiser Permanente appointed Bruce Turkstra as interim CIO while it searched for a new IT leader. Turkstra replaced Cliff Dodd, who resigned after a former Kaiser employee circulated an e-mail damning the company’s IT efforts. Nearly four months later, Kaiser concluded its CIO search with the hire of Philip Fasano. In the press release announcing the news, chairman and CEO George Halvorson thanked Turkstra, who had joined Kaiser in 2002, for his “excellent leadership and expertise.”

If Turkstra’s leadership was so excellent, why was he passed up for the CIO post?

“This was a matter of picking among a group of excellent candidates,” Mike Lassiter, Kaiser Permanente’s VP of media and external relations, told us via e-mail. “The person selected brought an array of experiences, business acumen, strategic approach and deep technical skills that were judged to best serve the organization’s technological agenda.”

Sam Gordon, director of executive search firm Harvey Nash’s CIO practice, says in cases like these, the firm may want to distance itself from the previous IT management by selecting an outsider.

In general, the odds of being officially named CIO are not good for internal candidates turned interim CIOs, Gordon says. “In many cases, external candidates have an advantage because there’s no formed ideas about them,” he says.

A few acting-turned-official CIOs recently have beaten the odds:

Ann Speyer officially assumed the role of CIO at Smithsonian after serving as its acting CIO since September 2006.

ICG Commerce named Rick Bunker its CIO in January. He had been serving as ICG’s interim head of technology and information management since September 2006.

David Roseberry was named vice president and CIO of RTI International in November 2006 after serving in an interim position since June 2006.