CIO Succession - Tenure and Career Path

The popular conception is that CIO has become a short life expectancy role, so we examined the tenures and next destinations of the CIOs preceding our set of newly appointed ones. Our data provides a richer picture. Nearly half (47%) had tenures of 3-6 years, and another 23% had longer tenures (the longest being 16 and 14 years at CA Technologies and Marriott, respectively). The average tenure was about 5 years, but it was closer to 4 in the largest company segment.

Figure 17: Average Tenure of Former CIOs by Company Size

Average Tenure of Former CIOs by Company Size

Of the 48 former CIOs whose next destinations are clear, more moved on to better things or retired than moved laterally or resigned:

  • 8 were promoted within the company
  • 12 moved to more responsible positions in other companies
  • 6 moved laterally (5 to other companies)
  • 12 resigned
  • 10 retired

We took a close look at CIO positions that had turned over twice in short order-three years or less. Among ten instances where the former CIO's tenure was 2-3 years, six of those CIOs moved up, including one to a CEO position, two to COO of the company, and two to CIO of a larger company. Two retired, and only two resigned. Several of these transitions, though rapid, were according to succession plans.

Where the tenure was less than two years, the situations are messier. One CIO jumped to a larger company and three resigned amid shake-ups. One company, Lowe's, had two very short-term CIOs in succession. The first resigned after less than a year. The second assumed the post on an interim basis, took a retirement package, and has since been replaced by the new CIO recruited from outside the company.

Two of the companies in our survey group merged the CIO role with an existing executive's role. J. C. Penny brought in a new CTO and two months later the CIO and CTO roles were combined under the CTO; the former CIO resigned. Credit Suisse folded the CIO responsibilities under the CFO, eliminating the separate post altogether.

The bottom line: Management shake-ups and corporate restructurings can make tenures short, but the CIO role can be a stepping stone as often as not.