by Kim S. Nash

CIO Succession Planning Made Simple

Oct 23, 20073 mins
IT Leadership

Chubb CIO June Drewry plans to retire next year and the race is on for her successor.

Finding the new you is never easy. But when you’re global CIO of a $14 billion company, some would argue, it’s a fiduciary responsibility to figure out who will succeed you when you retire. That’s what June Drewry, global CIO of The Chubb Corp., says. And she’s thought about succession planning almost since the day in October 2005 when she arrived at Chubb from rival Aon Corp.

“I’m trying to get out. Make my way to retirement,” Drewry said in a presentation at this month’s Society for Information Management (SIM) annual conference. “And the only responsible way is to mentor the next leaders.”

In 2005, Chubb’s IT group thought big thoughts about how a CIO would work and behave in 2010 and what capabilities that person would need. The top three skills identified: business acumen, relationship smarts and leadership.

Drewry then set out to find ways to elicit and nurture these abilities in her IT group. For example, by rotating her direct reports through different business units so they would learn what makes Chubb money and what doesn’t. Or, she says, she would let some of her promising staff run particular high-profile projects, such as claims management, to develop leadership skills.

Unlike with other C-level executives, including the CFO, the fabled “seat at the table” can be yanked out from under a CIO at any time, Drewry warns. “People, not IT organizations, earn seats at the table,” she says. “When people retire, the IT organization doesn’t necessarily retain that seat. We must be developing people who are credible successors so IT doesn’t lose these positions.”

Drewry recommends five easy steps to replace yourself:

  1. Create an office of the CIO, to split the duties among a handful of people—items such as governance, compliance and big projects. This builds skills and fosters taking on responsibility and accountability. “Give away the pieces,” she says.
  2. Rotate people through IT positions inside business units. Or, assign a particular problem to one of your up-and-comers, such as what to do about the mobile sales force system that no one likes.
  3. Have candidates join professional CIO organizations. Drewry likes SIM, whose IT executives hold several professional development and networking conferences each year. Drewry is on SIM’s board and as a chapter president. Other groups include the Association of Information Technology Professionals and the Black Data Processing Associates.
  4. Give each of your candidates an external mentor. “They need someone to go to beyond their [direct] boss or their dotted-line boss,” she says. Hers is Darwin John, former CIO of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  5. Develop “influence exercises.” That is, put your top performers in a position to interact with other senior leaders, on their own. Let a successor candidate fly by, for example, sending her to meet with the CEO on a project and then wait for the report back. “You have to step away,” she says.