New CIO? Your transition playbook in 10 (not-so-easy) steps

What you accomplish in the first six months of taking over an IT leadership role is critical. The following 10 steps will help you navigate the rocky transition, get your IT house in order and set a clear path toward a strong strategic future.

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A running joke among CIOs is that the acronym for their role stands for “Career Is Over,” a nod to the fact that the average tenure for a technology leader runs about four years. Evolving business needs and dissatisfaction with IT leadership suggest that timeline won’t change anytime soon.

CIOs joining new companies face a number of obstacles. Technology’s outsized role in driving businesses means many CIOs find themselves in the difficult position of using technology to both run the business and accelerate business growth, says Khalid Kark, research director of Deloitte’s CIO program. “Companies are not looking for [just] technology leaders,” Kark says. “They’re looking for inspirational business leaders that can lead and inspire the IT organization and develop a culture of high-performing talent.”

Transitions are particularly tough because business stakeholders expect new CIOs to dive right into business strategy, Kark says, when the reality is that they must often spend months getting their IT house in order. Moreover, some business stakeholders take longer to fill vacant CIO positions because they want to make sure candidates fit snugly within the company’s culture, Kark says. Adobe Systems, for example, took seven months to fill its CIO position, requiring CIO Cynthia Stoddard to remake IT’s identity.

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