Today’s shock departure of Capita chief operating officer Simon Pilling came after the board decided to split his role, the company has stated.

The sudden announcement, which took analysts by surprise, was issued at the start of business today. Douglas Hayward, a research manager at IDC, said the move “doesn’t look very planned”. But he added that joint COOs “can work well”, noting that Pilling had himself begun the COO role in 2006 with a shared post.

John O’Brien, research director at analyst house TechMarketView, told Computerworld UK that Pilling may “have (quite rightly) seen that as a demotion and upped sticks”.

Pilling had “risen through the ranks” at Capita during his eleven years at the company, noted O’Brien, and may have had designs on becoming a “potential successor” to chief executive Paul Pindar.

The company may look for growth in the insurance and government/health areas – roles run until now by Vic Gysin and Andy Parker, the new COOs. However, the move also raises more profound questions about Capita and its leadership.

Pilling, widely tipped as a future CEO at Capita, may have realised the top role was not likely to become available in the near future. "These moves raise all sorts of questions (again) on succession, although Pindar doesn’t look like vacating the top spot any time soon,“ said O'Brien.