Chief Information Officer - Job Tenure

Chief Information Officer - Job Tenure - How long does the average CIO stay on the job? It is not very long and varies between just between 4 years o 5 years according to various studies.

In a survey of over 270 companies in the United States, South America, and Europe Janco has found that CIOs jobs are not very secure in the current economic conditions.  Janco conducted a review of CIO turnover in a number of companies.  The companies were of all sizes and the results of the survey showed that the median length of employment was approximately 4 years and 2 months - what Janco defines as the half life of the CIO position.  Janco saw that there are a fair number of CIO who have been in their positions for over 6 to 7 years, however many of them are close to retirement age.  As a result Janco feels the median tenure for the CIO position will not be increase in any time soon.

The chart below depicts the length of time the current incumbents has been in the CIO position at their existing companies..

CIO Half Life

Evolution of the Role of the CIO During Their Tenure in Office

Stage 1 - New in Role Within Enterprise - Advocate

During this entry stage, CIOs struggle with the challenges information technologies bring to the enterprise. They are required to rethink potential solutions, develop a new vocabulary, and become immersed in the enterprise. In Stage 1, which typically lasts 18 to 24 months, the CIO:

  • Gets to know the job and the organization
  • Has a mandate to complete and acts like a leader
  • Builds creditability, legitimacy and political strength
  • Relies on proven solutions that can be implemented quickly
  • Convinces the enterprise of his/her direction rather than providing impartial advice

Stage 2 - Experienced Manager Within Enterprise - Advocate / Inventor / Facilitator

Throughout the adoption stage, the struggle regarding acceptance of new solutions proposed by the CIO is replaced by the challenges to implement them. User and enterprise acceptance of the CIO is augmented by assignment of "trust" in the CIO's leadership and invention capabilities to guide the enterprise in solutions which improve existing enterprise operational activities. In Stage 2, which typically starts at months 18 to 24, the CIO is part of the enterprise's management leadership team and the CIO:

  • Has sharpened his/her IT and enterprise operational knowledge
  • Has established strong ties at all levels of the organization including building a partnership role with key enterprise stakeholders
  • Assumes a role of an open-minded listener and no longer focuses on their own preconceived solutions
  • Is aligned with the strategic direction of the organization, the way it "does business", and is viewed as a team player.

Stage 3 - Settled in to the job - Facilitator / Traditionalist / Bureaucrat

Stage 3 is froth with the greatest risk for the CIO, as new solutions or technologies arise the CIO has a vested interest in keeping everything going smoothly. If a crisis occurs, be it economic, operational, or organizational, the CIO can either shine or be a target. The CIO has "matured" in the organization to the extent they are working the politics of the enterprise and keeping the IT organization in a maintenance mode. This is the point at 36 to 50 months when conflicts arise and the organization can and does question the value the CIO provides the enterprise. The CIO:

  • Has a lot of influence and allies within the enterprise
  • Is set in the status-quo and does not want to rock the boat
  • Starts to have a focus in areas other than his/her role within IT
  • Has the attitude that he/she has seen it all and can lean them to the point that they do not see a potential crisis before it hits
  • Thinking about his/her next job

CIOs and CTOs of the Future

The CIOs and CTOs of face many challenges.   The CIOs and CTOs who will succeed will have a common set of skills.

  • CIOs and CTOs will be both visionary and pragmatic - It is not enough to plan for innovation, they need to be perceptive and realistic. As an insightful manager they promote a broad technology agenda to help the business profit from leading-edge initiatives.  At the same time as a pragmatist, they deal with the realities of the business. The pragmatist also facilitates the productivity of current IT solutions.  The CIO and CTO focuses on minimizing cost and maximizing results, in addition they help to increase the customer and product/service base of the enterprise.

  • CIOs and CTOs will be focus on ROI improvement of IT  - CIOs and CTOs will find new ways to help customers and the organization profit from how data is used while focusing on managing budgets and processes to eliminate or reduce costs.

  • CIOs and CTOs will inspire the enterprise and expand the business impact of IT – CIOs and CTOs will have proven expertise in both business and technical facets of their role. they will interact with the enterprise and its executive team as enterprise leaders and drive new business initiatives and shifts jointly the other members of the executive team.

Chief Information Officer - Position Purpose

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is accountable for directing the information and data integrity of the enterprise and its groups and for all Information Technology functions of the enterprise.  This includes all data centers, technical service centers, production scheduling functions, help desks, communication networks (voice and data), computer program development, and computer systems operations.  He or she is responsible for maintaining the integrity of all electronic and optical books and records of the enterprise. 

The CIO reviews all computerized and manual systems; information processing equipment and software for acquisition, storage and retrieval; and definition of the strategic direction of all information processing and communication systems and operations.  He or she provides overall management and definition of all computer and communication activities within the enterprise including responsibility for providing a leadership role in the data to day operations of the Information Technology functions as well as providing direction as the enterprise grows through internal growth and external acquisition.

The CIO interacts with the executive management team to monitor and validate the enterprise’s compliance with its security policies, which includes but is not limited to Sarbanes Oxley Section 404.   In addition the CIO works closely with the Chief Security Officer of the enterprise

A full 5 page Chief Information Officer (CIO) job description can be found by clicking here

Role of CIO and CTO

The role of the CIO and CTO is changing as more enterprises more towards a "Value Added" role for the Information Technology function.  Those changes are depicted in the detail job descriptions that have been created for all of the functions with IT -- especially for the CIO and CTO.  The table below depicts several of those changes.


CIO & CTO Traditional Role

CIO & CTO Value added Role

Strategy and Planning

Define, update, and implement IT strategy

Manage IT across the enterprise

Align IT objectives and programs to enterprise objectives and strategies


Align the IT team with enterprise performance objectives

Control performance objectives and overall IT budget

Define metrics based on overall business objectives


Acquire software/hardware

Select, manage, and control IT providers

Manage outsourced services

Maximize the mix of in house versus out sourced services

Establish strategic service provider partnerships

Risk Management

Align IT risk management within IT productivity objectives

Align IT risk management with enterprise-wide risk management

Business process

Defer to enterprise requirements

Follow IT System Development Methodology (SDM)

Optimize and design enterprise processes via IT

Define and adjust IT standards and technologies

Strategic IT Initiatives

Plan and manage strategic IT initiatives

Manage IT applications portfolio

Manage IT projects

Shift decision making to enterprise operations

Include governance with business process executives

Enterprise infrastructure and applications

Define standards and architectures

Consolidate the IT process across the enterprise

Optimize costs of services through a mix of internal and external resources


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