IT Leadership

Korn Ferry Says 58% CIOs Will Leave Within Next 3 Years. Here’s Why.

I was going through an interesting research by Korn Ferry, which states that more than half of the CIOs (58%) at the world’s top companies will leave within the next 3 years. The study also reveals that the average CIO tenure at 4.3 years is shorter than that of the other C-Suite executives, such as the CEOs (8 years) and CFOs (5.1 years). If the study is to be believed, this expected mass exodus would leave a whole of digital plans and strategies in limbo.

At dynamicCIO, we spoke to some of the leading Indian CIOs to try to understand this trend and the possible reasons for CIOs not planning to stick around their organizations for long. And, their inputs were even more interesting and thought proving than the trend itself. The reasoning ranged across a whole plethora of views – challenging role, better opportunities, future growth path, organizational complacency, cultural fit, money, boss, IT investments, etc.

Quite interestingly though, many Indian CIOs believe that it is the CIO’s own inadequacy to adapt to the changing CIO role and business expectations that is pressurizing him/her to take the way out.

According to Vijay Sethi, CIO and head of CSR and HR, Hero MotoCorp, this trend is definitely there and the reason is that many CIOs fail to evolve beyond fulfilling or supporting the basic technology needs of their organizations. “The CIO role today requires a transition from technology leadership to business leadership. Those CIOs who are reluctant to go beyond their role of technology provider and fail to make that transition to being a business leader due to any reasons including fear of losing control on IT are generally unable to fulfill business expectations. This ultimately leads many of them to move out,” he explains.

Amrita Gangotra, Director – Technology, Vodafone Hungary, who also agrees with the research findings and has personally tracked this trend, believes that this is primarily due to the CIOs being unable to adapt, adopt and drive the technology and business changes that are happening in regards the digital space. “Businesses forever have tried to have a ‘shadow IT’ within their departments because they see the IT department (and the CIO) as slow to understand their needs and implement what they want. This phenomenon is being legitimized by the agile methodology. This is not wrong but CIOs have usually not collaborated with business to adopt the new business operating model – CIOs usually do not express their views on business matters even if they sit on the management board or raise their hands to lead business projects,” she states.

Chiranjoy Das, CIO, SimpleTire (an online tyre retailer in U.S.) points out that the CIO’s tenure is shortening because CIOs – a) fail to align themselves with business, b) fail to adapt to the constantly changing business/technology/data/security needs, & thereby fail to deliver business value, and c) fail to deliver projects in time owing to lack of leadership.

This highlights a dearth of CIOs in the market who are successfully transitioning into business leaders, driving innovation around business models and delivering business value. With the supply unable to keep up with the growing demand, there is expected to be further churn. As Ekhlaque Bari, Executive Vice President – IT at Max Life Insurance, points out, “The demand for good CIOs is greater than supply. With increasing need for enterprises to leverage technology, the gap between demand and supply is increasing. In the next few years, expect CIOs to last lesser than 3 years. It would change as new breed of CIOs emerge. That would take 5 to 10 years. For now, good CIOs are in short supply and enterprises must do everything they can to retain them.”

According to Hilal Khan, VP and Operating Head – IT, Honda Cars India. “It means those who will update themselves and continue to add value to their organization will be in demand. These CIOs are leaving or may leave as there is growth for them. I see it as a positive because it only endorses the fact those who adopt the dynamics of business and technology for the growth of the organization will eventually add value to themselves and will continue to grow,” he adds.

“There are CIOs and then there are the CIOs who make a difference wherever they go. The first category leaves as they find the seat becoming hot with their inability to deliver to promise or bring about change and impact business with technology or are risk averse. Some of these also find others being installed above them, thus undermining their positions. The latter, the ones who make a difference, are always sought after by the industry and always seek new challenges and opportunities. If these keep coming in the same company, they see no reason to explore outside. They also look for the usual – money, growth, rewards, but the biggest reason they stay is acknowledgement of credibility and respect,” explains Arun Gupta, ex-CIO of Shoppers Stop and Cipla.

As organizations worldwide move towards a ‘digital first’ future, the CIO will perhaps be one of the most critical hires made by the business to the management team. The CIO office is where most of the action is going to congregate today as business strategies increasingly and invariably get tied to the digital strategy and business models get built around technology. In this context, as Meheriar Patel, CIO, AGC Networks points out, “Demanding organizations are looking at digital evangelists at the helm rather than plan vanilla CIOs. Product innovation, value driven approach and alignment with both shareholders and stakeholders are some of the key imperatives required of them. The future is not for the conventional CIO.”

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