Onwards and upwards

Onwards and upwards

When it feels like it's time to move on, chief information officers need to help make the transition smooth for themselves and their companies.

The scenario You have been successfully performing as a CIO for a number of years and are getting the unmistakable feeling that the grass is starting to grow under your feet. You would love to advance your career further within the organisation itself but you get the sense that filling your shoes would be a hard task, and is a problem your board would not relish - so you may have to entertain thoughts of moving elsewhere. What is your strategy from here? And what actions do you take to ensure your career can move in the right direction?

Bob Hennessy

General manager, technology and shared services, AAPT

The first issue I have is with myself - why don't I have a successor after being in the role for some years? I would be embarrassed to go to my board to recommend a change to free me up for something else if I couldn't also name some solid internal candidates to replace me.

Secondly, I would ask why I'm not setting the bar higher to stimulate myself and my people to find better ways to bring value to the organisation that we are being paid to help make money. It's been over 20 years since I had a day at work where I felt bored. As my mother said, "to be bored is a comment more about you than the circumstances you find yourself in".

To feel grass growing under my feet means I've stopped stretching myself; that somehow I'm satisfied that where I am is as good as it can be - and I just can't imagine ever being there. What's acceptable to me is defined as a measurable improvement on where I am today. Forget benchmarking as a way of proving you're great: what do those who use your services think?

So it's likely that if I feel stale as the CIO, there are not going to be many other roles in the company that excite me. One great thing about running the technology organisation is that you get to engage with the business from end to end (since business systems support all facets of the organisation) and top to bottom (through providing services to every staff member via the PC and other communication technology).

If I still decide to move on, then it has to be to where the challenges are greater. I would look for a place where I'd be part of the executive and have clear accountability to execute projects and operate the technology, and where my experience would be valued in helping to set and deliver the business development and improvement priorities of the organisation. So I'm off to begin the search for the next horizon.

Barry Wiech

CIO, Domino's Pizza Enterprises

So here I am, sitting at my desk and gazing out of my office window, admiring the view. I ask myself, where can I go from here having accomplished so much in steering technology on the straight and narrow.

Where is my next challenge? Convincing the rest of the executive and the board to spend on some exciting new technology? Restructuring to reduce overheads for the next budget? Moving into a high-rise office with a better view?

I snap out of my self-imposed trance to be greeted by one of my staff with a worrying look on his face. I greet him calmly, expecting news of some great catastrophe. "We have a problem," he answers.

After a pause he continues. "And here is how I solved it." I realise that the hard yards have all but been run and I suddenly begin to do something I have not done in years. I begin to picture my dusty resume, subconsciously updating it with all of my achievements of the past few years, realising that my job here is done.

I then begin to realise that I am well on the way to leaving a role that I have made my own over the past few years, and take a leap into the great unknown that is the ICT job market.

In my view, the real test of great executives will come down to how they leave a role and move out of a company seamlessly. Leaving a company is just as important as joining one. Your credibility rests upon your achievements as much as on the continuing success of the initiatives you have set in motion within the company.

Handing over the office keys will take planning to ensure that my exit is as graceful as possible and to ensure that the right person is able to step in and pick up where I leave off. Not having to deal with operational crises day-to-day certainly helps anyone in a new role.

Finally, after ensuring the team is taken care of, I have to work on my resignation letter and thank the people who have helped my team to achieve so much over the past few years. There is no time for self doubt now, as I am fully committed to the next part of my life and career. I make sure I don't forget to turn the lights out on my last day, then glance back and reflect on the great team, culture and environment I have helped build. I then look forward and think about the next great career challenge and where it might take me

Craig Healey

Strategy and technology manager, Fairfax Business Media

At first glance this CIO looks very good at his job. But analysis reveals two troubling problems: the organisation does not appear to have succession planning in place, and the CIO has overlooked the need to nurture a successor - or alternatively, doesn't want potential rivals working for him.

If the latter is true, he is probably not the sort of executive the company would want to promote . His acts or omissions have compromised his personal aspirations.

To lose a strong, effective leader is a blow to any organisation. Senior executives view effective succession management as a critical strategic tool. Yet this organisation, through negligence, has created a situation where the only way for this CIO to pursue his career goal is to leave. Worse, the company does not have an internal successor.

Best-practice organisations have formal internal programs in place that focus on developing their top-tier executives.

Individual development plans are used by all best-practice organisations. These firms try to match employees' career preferences, interests and career development to a future job within the company.

Performance management and 360-degree feedback are linked throughout the succession management process and are tools used by best-practice organisations to place employees in development plans. The tools are tied together and based on core and leadership competencies.

There are certain characteristics of an effective program that are universal:

  • Smooth transitions. Having someone to step into a role is a key measure of the effectiveness of succession management.
  • The right developmental assignments. A successful process includes assignments that prepare candidates for positions.
  • Meaningful appraisals and feedback. These are essential to specifying what's required for a successful promotion.
  • Appropriate selection criteria. A successful system depends on the development of competencies for each job.
  • A range of good choices. A working succession system produces more than one good candidate for a key job.
MIS Magazine

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