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The Politics Of Being A Retail CIO

September 12th, 2012

So in some cases CIOs cheat a little. Just like a bill getting bloated with provisions as it passes through congress, CIOs are often forced to attach small cleanup efforts to other projects. When I recently asked a group of about 100 IT leaders if they had recently “bloated a project” for cleanup purposes, about 80 percent of the people in the room raised their hand.

This means timelines are extended and budgets are increased in an effort to carry the float. Executives start to question why projects are taking so long and costing so much.

At a CIO networking event a few years ago, a bunch of the local CIOs across all industries were standing in a circle and having a drink. Someone in the group mentioned the “curse” related to speaking at this event. At least one of the panelists had been fired within 30 days of speaking at the event. It had nothing to do with speaking on the panel; it’s just the reality that one in five CIOs job is likely at risk at any given point in time. For this event, in particular, at least one panelist had bitten the bullet in each of the last three years (and the same has been true in the two years since the event I attended).

One of the CIOs in that group spoke up and suggested everyone in the circle look at the person to their left and introduce that person to their boss. He proffered that sometime within the next two years our own bosses would be unhappy with our performance and that it would be smart to make a connection with another CIO in the same group. At least then the role could be kept within the family, he joked.

Although we laughed hard about the concept that night, and I have since told that story dozens of times, the joke has a stinging truth to it: The odds are stacked against long-term tenure within a single organization.

To maximize both the business benefit delivered and their personal career income statements, new retail CIOs should do a few things:

What do you think? If you disagree (or even, heaven forbid, agree), please comment below or send me a private message. Or check out the Twitter discussion on @todd_michaud.


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