Some say seven is a lucky number; well there have been seven major CIO job changes over the autumn. Does this signify anything? Some economic commentators are already talking the UK into an upturn (remember the green shoots killed off all too quickly), while closer to home other industry watchers say organisations are keen to adopt digital leaders.
In the UK five members of the last two CIO 100 listing of transformative CIOs have changed job and two major global roles based in the US have also changed.
Two roles are CIOs teaming up into relationships where both parties feel they both work well together. Jonathan Vardon leaving Boots for The Cooperative Group sees Vardon team up with Andy Haywood, formerly IT leader of Boots. Vardon and Haywood worked closely together at Boots and both are open about the opportunities for CIOs and digital leaders at Manchester-based Cooperative.
Similarly, Mark Hall and Phil Pavitt certainly began an era of major change at HMRC and the 13 Machines consolidation programme has been significant at driving cost savings in the public sector department. It will be interesting to see how the pair drive change at insurance service providers Aviva.
Other notable role changes are former P&G CIO Dave Ubachs becoming European CIO for office goods retailer Staples, former Hiscox insurance CIO Andrew Turner becoming interim IT Director for Crossrail, one of the largest civil engineering projects in Europe and Interserve recruiting Darryn Warner from Balfour Beatty. Over the pond BP CIO Dana Deasy is leaving the oil industry for banking at JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs are putting their COO in charge of IT operations following a high profile problem with the bank’s software.
“When the economy is changing state, either going into a recession or when there is a sense of optimism you get a volume of change,” says Simon La Fosse CEO of C-level recruitment specialists La Fosse Associates. “When organisations are looking for a CIO to be an agent of change then that can cause movement,” La Fosse added. The recruiter warns CIOs of a paradox though. Those CIOs that have kept costs down “get tarred with a brush” because now the organisation finds its systems are bit clunky and creaky. CIOs that have kept costs down can find it hard to be recognised as the ones to enable the company to modernise and renew.
Kevin Sealy, CIO Practice Head at Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann added:
"I think the current flurry of announcements is indicative of a steady increase in activity over the last two years that in turn mirrors growing business confidence and an increase in change and investment budgets.
"I see two major trends at the moment – the continued drive for efficiency through standardisation and shared services, and the need for agile, flexible IT that can respond quickly to the demands of the consumer facing areas of the business.
"These might seem to be contradictory – but I see them as highly complementary – in that you can only support true agility in IT if you have a sound platform from which to develop.
"If you look at M&S, for example, their announcement of a digital lab (http://www.cio.co.uk/news/strategy/marks-spencer-digital-lab-speed-up-agile-development-process/) reflects this need to respond to fast-moving eCommerce and digital marketing initiatives and work hand-in-hand with the customer facing parts of the business. Yet, how effective would this new capability be if M&S had not invested in their underlying architecture and environment over the last few years? It is that platform and the operating model around it that provides the environment for technology innovation to prosper. The CIOs that companies want must be able to handle this twin paradigm. It is just as important that they can steer IT towards an efficient global operating model and architecture that supports multiple lines of business, a changing M&A landscape and year-on-year demands for cost efficiencies, as it is that they can lead major eCommerce initiatives, drive digital consumer marketing and support new revenue channels.
"And across all appointments, high levels of leadership skill and business focus remain vital – they are the areas that distinguish the very best CIOs from the chasing pack. CEOs are demanding that CIOs be more proactive in driving strategy and educating their C-level peers. Which in turn drives another emerging paradigm – the need for the highly technically literate but business focused CIO. No longer the cry for a General Manager for IT, but instead a recognition that a firm grasp and passion for technology allied to real business leadership skills is what enables innovation. The CIO role therefore continues to develop and remains critical for the majority of organisations – those that drive technology strategy from the top will be the winners, it seems. Hence the CIO must be able to educate and lead the technology debate and execute strategy with agility and pace."