by Meridith Levinson

Eric Sigurdson discusses last week’s flurry of CIOs into operations

Aug 17, 20054 mins

Yesterday I talked to Eric Sigurdson about the flurry of CIOs who moved into operations positions last week.  Sigurdson leads Russell Reynolds’ Information Officers Practice (one of Sigurdson’s colleagues placed Dana Deasy at Tyco.)  I asked him to make sense of this trend for me.  Here’s an edited version of our conversation:

CIO: What’s behind the four announcements I came across last week about CIOs who had moved into operations positions?

Sigurdson: Top tier CIOs have always wanted and striven for general management responsibility.  A lot of the top guys want to be presidents, COOs and CEOs.  But only some have the skills to do it. 

From a supply and demand standpoint, it might imply that really outstanding IT execs have gotten so strong that companies are having to consider promoting them into bigger roles either to keep them or to entice them into joining the company.  If there’s an excess supply of talent, then companies don’t have to do promotions, but when there’s a shortage of talent you see salaries creeping up, titles inflating and responsibilities broadening. 

Are these announcements good news for CIOs?

It bodes well for CIOs.  It shows they can get to the next level.  That was always the rub for CIOs: The next step for a successful CIO of a $2 billion company was to become CIO of a $5 billion company, which meant the CIO had to change companies and change cities, which is a disruption to their lives.  The fact that CIOs can move into operations helps the candidates and helps companies because they get tech savvy leaders in influential roles. 

Are we going to see more CIOs move into ops?

I don’t think we’re going to see an excessive amount. It’s not like the gates aren’t opening and all of a sudden you’ll see hundreds.  It’s all situational. You’ll see a little here, a little there.

Here are some other announcements about CIOs I’ve come across over the past few weeks:

Carey Lowrey left gourmet grocery store chain Balducci’s after a little over a year on the job to join Ultimate Electronics, a specialty retailer of home entertainment and consumer electronics products, as its new VP of IT.  Prior to Balducci’s, Lowrey held senior IT management positions with Waldo’s Management Services, Musicland Group, AutoZone and Boston Market.  Lowery earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in business information systems from the University of Memphis in 1992. 

Corinthian Colleges hired Carmella Cassetta as its vice president and CIO.  Most recently Cassetta was senior vice president of  world wide application development at Ingram Micro where she led more than 250 software engineers responsible for application, architecture, development, implementation and support.  She also previously served as CIO/CTO of Printnation and worked for Barnes & Noble and Waldenbooks in IT leadership positions.

John Kocon is leaving his post as project management officer at Oregon Health and Science University on August 19th. Ten days later he’ll be starting a new job with Rolls-Royce as its vice president of business process improvement programs.  As such, he’ll be leading a new organization of program managers responsible for global information technology and business process improvement programs.

Chuck Franz, who had been dividing his time between serving as president of Cook Urological and coordinating Cook’s global information technology integration efforts, will return to Cook Group fulltime as vice president and CIO.

Jackson Healthcare Solutions of Alpharetta, Ga. named William Fricke its new CIO. Fricke previous worked for Infor Global Solutions as an IT strategist; Internet Security Systems as director of IT applications; and as an IT consultant to Lockheed Martin, NASA and Frito-Lay.  He holds an executive MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business, a master’s degree in computer science and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Florida Institute of Technology.  In his spare time, he trains for marathons.