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CIO succession: Promote from within vs. hire an outsider

Ann Bednarz | Dec. 4, 2012
Tapping an outsider can bring fresh perspective and experience to the CIO's office, but it also can have a negative effect on companies' efforts to develop IT management talent internally

On the flip side, there's a domino effect to consider. Passing over an internal candidate can put a company at risk not only of losing that candidate but also the team members who report to him or her.

Sometimes, it makes sense to look outside the organization. A company may not have confidence that an internal candidate is ready for the CIO job. Or a company may believe the IT organization needs a significant overhaul and a new leader to execute a new direction.

The decision to hire a CIO from outside the company could be fueled by another executive change: a new CEO. If a new CEO is brought in to make big changes at a company, that often means replacing other senior executives, including the CIO, Cullen says.

Regardless of whether a new CIO is chosen from within the ranks or outside, it's critical that companies maintain lines of communication with any internal candidates who were passed over for the job. Internal candidates need to understand what comes next and how to maintain their career trajectory.

"Those people want to know, 'Am I never going to get this? Or are there things I need to work on so that if this position opens up again, I have a shot?'" Cullen says. "There's got to be very clear conversations with an individual who's passed over. They're going to move on unless they see some other types of opportunities that make it worth staying."

Poor communication can lead to more turnovers -- which sometimes is just what new tech leadership intends. "Some companies want people to leave so they can completely change the entire department," Cullen says. "If that's not the case, then you have to pay attention to people who were interested in the opportunity but didn't get it."



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