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How to survive CIO regime change

Minda Zetlin | March 7, 2011
How long does the average CIO stay on the job? Not very long. According to a Gartner Inc. survey of 1,527 CIOs, their average tenure in 2009 was four years and four months, a figure that has changed relatively little over the past several years, according to Mark McDonald, group vice president of Gartner Executive Programs. "It's been between four years and three months and four years and nine months," he says.

When you do get a chance to talk to the new CIO, always remind him or her of your name, Watson says. "And when attending a joint meeting with the CIO and your peers, find opportunities to speak out and offer added insight or data," he says.

You should avoid sitting through such a meeting without saying anything, he adds. But at the same time, "be careful not to over-speak, and not to appear political," he warns.

Misstep 5: Failing to Reapply for Your Job

"When a new CIO comes in, you're in essence auditioning for your job," Bonfante says. "You should be confident that you have value and willing to market what you've done for the organization. But don't act like the job is guaranteed. You should always act as if you're being interviewed."

"It may not be obvious, and it may not be stated," Gingras adds. "But the new CIO will come with his or her own ideas, people and processes. There's a tendency for IT employees to think that they're untouchable because they've been with the organization for 10 or 20 or 30 years. No matter what's happened in the past, you effectively have to reapply for your job."

Attitude is everything. "You'd be surprised how often people want to tell [a new boss] about all the bad things in the organization," says Gingras, who often works as an interim CIO. You wouldn't talk like that at a job interview, and you shouldn't in this situation either.

"Focus on areas where you think you can improve IT, and talk about your ideas," Bonfante says. "Nobody cares how bad the old CIO was. The past is the past, and putting someone else down will not make you look good in anybody's eyes."

Misstep 6: Giving In to Fear

"The No. 1 thing I've learned is, don't assume bad things are going to happen, and don't go into it with illusory fears," Maddock says. "People have a tendency to assume the worst when someone new comes in. Instead, go in with a positive attitude, and that will be infectious."

After all, you may not be the only one who's afraid. "Remember that the person walking in the door is a human being and probably has the same fears you do," Bonfante says. "So give the new CIO the benefit of the doubt."

Exit Strategy

Hello, I Must Be Going

You should always approach a new CIO with an open mind, a positive attitude and a willingness to do whatever is needed to support a new strategy. But there are times when a new CIO's arrival means you should start planning your departure. Here are some signs that it may be time to consider a change:


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