One of the most difficult C-suite positions to replace is the CIO. The advancements in technology modernization combined with the shortage in the talent market are creating hiring cycles of six months to a year to find a new full-time CIO. If you haven’t considered it before, you may want to look at the process of hiring an interim CIO to keep your business moving.
In 2021 interim CIOs, CISOs, and CTOs increased in demand by more than 80% over the year prior according to Heidrick & Struggles subsidiary Business Talent Group. According to Business Talent Group’s co-founder and co-CEO Jody Greenstone Miller, “There’s no question that the rise of digital transformation, which I think was accelerated by Covid, is a big piece of this. If you’re in the market for technology talent, you can’t wait…it’s moving rapidly, it changes quickly.”
Interim executives are not a new concept, they have been around in one form or another for years. However, the pandemic accelerated digital transformation initiatives for many organizations. This has increased both the need for executive leadership and the movement of CIOs to other organizations.
No successful organization can afford to be without a CIO for six months or more. And while some companies have succession plans in place, many more are facing CIO departures with little to no advance notice. The idea of having a director or VP step into the role on a short-term basis is not as viable as it once was due to the complexity and sophistication of today’s IT infrastructure. The skillset is becoming more specialized to include cloud technologies, as well as data and analytics.
And it’s not just departures that are driving the demand for interim CIOs. According to a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article, “Interim CIOs also help companies address organizational changes, including mergers and acquisitions, which sometimes require changes to technology infrastructure.” The pressure to transform and adopt new technologies often requires a unique set of skills for a defined period of time, interim leadership is perfect for these situations.
One example from the WSJ article is Western Asset Management Company, “In 2020 hired an interim chief information officer to work alongside their technology lead. “We wanted to bring in someone senior on an interim basis who could give [an internal employee] the perspective and experience of a global CIO working alongside him, give him support [and] be a sounding board,” said Jennifer Murphy, who was then the company’s chief operating officer.”
Per David Armendariz, general manager of information technology at the Lucas Group, a Korn Ferry company, “Not having someone at the helm for six months can have a significant negative impact on the organization as a whole, with dramatic results. But because of the speed and significance of these projects, not having someone in the seat is irresponsible.”
If you still have second thoughts about bringing in an outsider to the C-suite on a short-term basis, consider the risks of being without a CIO or CISO. While you are looking for a new candidate, a security breach could expose your data including customer information because you don’t have someone with the requisite skill to lead the team.
One way to prepare for a CIO departure is to have your senior team members spend time in different technology departments and roles including security, development, engineering, and software, so they have a well-rounded view of the business and how your go-to-market strategy affects each group. Even if you still need to bring in an interim CIO, they will be more informed and the team will operate at a high level during the transitional period. And if you need help hiring for your C-suite, send us a note.