Definition

interim CIO (interim chief information officer)

An interim CIO, also known as a contract CIO, is a qualified chief information officer who serves a company on a temporary basis. Interim CIOs are typically hired for a period that ranges from six months to two years.

There are a variety of situations in which an interim CIO could be called on to temporarily lead the company's IT organization. The full-time CIO could have retired, moved to another company, was laid off or was transferred or promoted to another position in the company, and there was no associate CIO to take their place. But other, less-obvious reasons include covering for the CIO during their maternity or paternity leave or in the event that they are unexpectedly unavailable, or to temporarily assist a recently hired permanent CIO.

Interim CIOs are brought into a company to accomplish a variety of things, from fixing pain points to transforming the IT department to revamping IT strategy to overseeing a specific project to giving both the company and the CIO a chance to see if they are a fit with each other. In some instances, the interim CIO is hired to become permanent CIO.

Companies typically seek interim CIOs who possess managerial experience, experience restricting IT, . strategic and operational business skills, a flexible schedule, and solid communication and social skills. Because interim CIOs are usually hired while a company is transitioning between permanent CIOs, these temporary chief executives must be able to ably tackle whatever specific business or technology needs a company requires at the time they are hired.

There are many pros to being an interim CIO. Because employing them is expensive and they are only on board for a limited amount of time, the client usually provides them with a clear-cut objective and a fixed schedule to achieve a project. Interim CIOs also often feel gratified with handing over a project, operation or IT organization in better shape to a permanent CIO once their tenure is over, and they end up having gained useful knowledge and skills in the process.

There are some drawbacks, however. Interim CIOs need to get up to speed on every aspect of their assignment and execute it quickly. While interim CIOs are well-compensated, they usually have to pay their own business costs, such as insurance and pension contributions. They also encounter similar challenges to similar to what CIOs new to a company do, such the need to fix major problems left by their predecessor, an underinvestment in IT resources, and a need for a transformation in the business environment.

This was last updated in April 2016

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