Author: Yogi Schulz
Ever wonder why the turnover rate among CIOs is higher than any other executive position? High turnover is directly related to the fact that the CIO is the new kid on the executive block and in many ways is still learning about his or her role on the executive team. Meanwhile, the other executives are learning how to relate to the person in the upstart CIO position. This mutual lack of familiarity often leads to tension and conflict. But in some ways, this discomfort is natural. But in some ways, this discomfort is natural. Think about it: civilization is far more familiar with the roles of the other executive positions.
Executive Vice President
Take, for instance, the position of Executive Vice President. It is among the earliest recorded executive positions, only back then it was called vizier. As an advisor to the Pharaoh, the vizier was counted on to make sure that his wishes were carried out faithfully and expeditiously.
History has also been good to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), originally called the Custodian of the Treasure House. Established organizations like Lloyd’s of London and the House of Rothschild developed risk management and conservative money management which remain the tools of today’s CFO. On this continent, the organizations founded by John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan grew to their substantial size in large part through astute financial management. Through these developments, the position of CFO took on more importance as the profit opportunity from financial dealing grew.
Vice President of Engineering
Meanwhile, the position of Vice President of Engineering is rooted in the building tasks of ancient times. Early manufacturing facilities experienced horrific industrial accidents that lead to the introduction of design and safety standards, many of which are with us still.
These positions have all stood the test of time, and their incumbents can be assured a seat in the boardroom. But the CIO is a newcomer to the executive scene and the seating arrangements – in most organizations – are still unclear.
In many organizations, the first information technology-related position was named something like Computer Supervisor. The position included hardware and software responsibilities and typically reported to the Manager of Accounting. In time, the positions ratcheted up in the organization to become Manager of Computing and reported to the CFO or the Vice President of Manufacturing. That’s where the position remains today.
Only in very few organizations, where information technology has unquestionably become truly indispensable, does the position of CIO exist as part of the executive management team.
In many more organizations, the strategic significance of information technology is the source of intense debate. Consequently, the position of CIO and its incumbent often operate in a precarious political environment.
But I believe CIOs are becoming more adept politically through difficult experiences. Successful CIOs will ensure that executive sponsorship of IT projects rests visibly with the member of the executive team who benefits the most from the project. Astute CIOs will coach that person but will not let them delegate or abrogate their sponsorship role.
The other members of the executive team are likely to enhance their understanding of information technology, either through disastrous experiences or through a growing appreciation for what information technology can contribute to the bottom line.
Meaning? The future CIO will likely enjoy more prominence and visibility in the executive suite.
1. “Wenguan (“Lettered Official”), Gongwuyuan (“Public Servant”), and Ganbu (“Cadre”): The Politics of Labelling State Administrators in Republican China”, Julia C. Strauss, School of Oriental and African Studies, Londonwww.easc.indiana.edu/Pages/Easc/working_papers/NOFRAME_6B_LETTR.htm