You've worked hard. You've climbed your way to the top of the tree. You've made it to be CIO, and there's certainly plenty to get on with. Maybe you've even been recognised in the CIO 100...
But what comes next? Is it the same role in a new company? Or are there other fields that the experience and knowledge every CIO gains in post can transfer their skills to? And when CIOs move on, what do they leave behind?
We recently reported on the move of Richard Thwaite, who was in last year's CIO 100 as CIO of the Metropolitan Police, and has now moved to management consultant, Chaucer Consulting, as its director of technology advisory. Thwaite's motivation in moving was to help other CIOs leverage the capabilities of technology vendors more effectively, and it was the skill set he acquired as CIO of Ford of Europe and the Metropolitan Police which have given him the tools to do this.
UCLH's CIO James Thomas topped the 2013 CIO 100. Last year, he joined integration and services vendor Atos to head its healthcare consulting division in the UK and Ireland as we reported at the time. Again, his pioneering and transformational work at UCLH will now be harnessed for Atos's clients.
In 2012, easyJet CIO Trevor Didcock was ranked top of the CIO 100. Now, after four and a half years, he is choosing to move away from the company where he has overseen radical transformation and brought IT driven tools to bear on the way easyJet runs both front and back office functions.
The goals behind Didcock's departure are both career-led and personal. "I was doing some of the things I'd done before" he admits, "but the trigger was that a major transformation programme is just getting underway and will take a further two or three years. Changing CIOs in the middle of such transformation is disruptive, so I either needed to leave at the end of the process or go now..."
Didcock is keen to share his knowledge and expertise as well as run his own business. Here he has a head start: The company he set up in 2010 to support Home Service USA in its purchase of National Grid Emergency Services from National Grid plc, Integrum Consulting, will now serve as a platform for both acquisition, as well as big transformational and change advice and support for private and public organisations. And personally, he wanted to enjoy more time with his family and leisure activities by creating a more flexible career.
JLT Group's CIO Ian Cohen came in at number two in the CIO 100 in 2013. He has also now left this role to operate in a non-executive and advisory capacity for a number of the bright start-ups around London, as well as acting as a Digital Advisor to more established players: "After more than 15 years of-C level roles driving physical and digital transformation and integration for some huge brands I wanted to help some smaller companies grow and develop. It was also a fabulous way to get immersed in the current wave of digital innovation - both the technologies being used and the ways of working" he explains.
There are some common themes here. For a start, all these ex-CIOs, although moving out of pure CIO roles, are continuing to work very closely in the same transformative areas of interaction between technology and business, mostly in advisory roles.
Secondly, and maybe most significantly, most CIOs already have a view on how vendors could be doing a much better job for them if only the relationship could be developed further and deeper. But almost as many accept that not enough is being done in this area to make it actually happen. Seeing more great ex-CIOs working on behalf of such vendors will result in better propositions, more carefully crafted to support current CIO objectives and concerns.
Finally, we learn that being a CIO has one very clear career benefit: It prepares you for a huge range of future careers thanks to the breadth of skills needed: Anything from a chief operating officer, a CEO, through procurement roles, non-executive roles, consultancy and advisory posts and many others.
The CIO role remains secure as ever, even if there are many views of what the job should be, as Cohen explains: "The problem with the CIO role is that it's always been the hardest of the tech leadership roles to define. If someone proudly wears the badge of IT Director you're generally clear about their strengths and focus. The same is true for a CTO but the CIO spans both those disciplines and often adds another more business and commercial dimension. It's that ambiguity hat is its biggest strength and its biggest weakness."
Didcock believes that the CIO's role will continue to exist because there will always be a need for someone who safeguards an organisation's information and systems and leads transformational change through the use of technology. He believes the CIO's role needs to be uniquely defined in companies as IT increasingly is the product; marketing, product and channel experts legitimately own elements of its definition as part of the mix. Of the rise of the CDO he suggests there may not be room for both a CIO and CDO in the same organisation; where a CDO exists, the role of CTO may be more appropriate.
Our CIO 100 annually tracks the UK's best CIOs, and naturally we're sorry to see any of them go. But what we are actually witnessing is our peers both widening the career horizon, and moving into the very organisations and vendors we work with every day. Here they will, we hope, help transform them into more effective partners and advisors for us all…