CIOs And The Art Of Succession Planning

CIOs Need To Plan For Who Comes Next
CIOs Need To Plan For Who Comes Next
Image Credit: Xiaojun Deng

Wow – it sure was hard to get the CIO job. Just think for a moment about all of the various positions you had to rise through in order to finally obtain the top spot in IT. You do realize that you are not the last CIO that your company is ever going to have – because of the importance of information technology there will be others who follow behind you. Part of your job as the current CIO is to help the company to identify who will take over the CIO position when you finally move on. Do you know how to go about doing this?

What Should You Not Do When Performing Succession Planning?

One of the most difficult questions to answer when you start to think about succession planning is when should you start this task? The answer is right now. The one thing that you don’t want to do is force your company to wait until there is a vacancy before they start to try to figure out how they’ll fill it. You never know when a better opportunity for you might show up and you don’t want to leave your current company in a lurch.

When you start looking around for potential next-CIO candidates, make sure that you don’t make what is called the “rearview mirror” error. What this means is that you don’t want to choose a successor who views the world the same way that you do. What you need to be looking for is someone who you feel is aligned with the company’s future business strategy. They’ll need to make decisions to get the company to where it wants to go, not where it has been.

Finally, when you have picked the person who will succeed you, don’t keep it a secret. When the day comes for them to step into the CIO position, you want the rest of the company to be ready for them. This means that you need to have let everyone know that this day was coming. This way you’ll make it easier for control to pass from you to them.

What Should You Do When Performing Succession Planning?

When you pick the candidate that you believe would best serve the company, your job has only begun. Since this person will not be stepping into the CIO role immediately, you have the luxury of time. Use this time to conduct a complete background check on them. Don’t forget to check out their social media content – you don’t want to get surprised by anything after the company has announced their new CIO!

As a CIO you are the person who best understands what this job requires. Yes, an understanding of the latest advances in technology is important. However, what is even more important is to have the soft skills that are needed to perform the CIO job. When you select your next-CIO candidate, take the time to verify that they have the soft skills that you believe that they’ll need in order to perform the job well.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

The world is constantly changing. What this means for you is that your time as your company’s CIO is a limited thing. In order to prepare your company for the future and to make it easier for you to move on when the time comes, you need to create a succession planning process.

As a part of this process you are going to want to be careful to not wait until you are leaving to start. Pick the next CIO long before you go. Pick someone who will be able to manage the IT department as it looks in the future. Always do a background check on the person that you pick. Make sure that you ensure that the candidate that you pick has the social skills that being a CIO requires.

Picking the person who will take over your job is never an easy thing to do. We all feel just a little uncomfortable doing this, I mean aren’t we supposed to be irreplaceable? However, having a backup identified long before they are needed is a key part of the modern CIO job. Get this taken care of and you’ll have one more thing that you can check off of your “to do” list!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should take any special steps to make sure that your selected successor does not leave the company before becoming CIO?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Here’s a quick question for you: what is more important for a CIO to do – cut costs or boost revenues? I think that it’s fair to say that because of the importance of information technology, we are called on to do both at the same time; however, they can’t both be of equal value. One has to be more important than the other. Which one should we be spending more time on?