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Editor's Letter: IT Leaders Should Make Time for Strategic Planning

Making a difference in IT.

It isn't just about the money. Enjoying your job involves so much more: challenge, respect, engagement, camaraderie.

That's what the CIOs interviewed for our second annual Midmarket Salary and Careers Survey package told us: Job satisfaction -- and, ultimately, tenure -- requires a sense that you are making a difference. That difference could be changing rural health care, as CIO Spencer Hamons describes, or enabling company growth, as CIO Jim Thome has been doing for 16 years at his company. Unfortunately, making a difference happens far too seldom or for far too short a time. Some two-thirds of the CIOs responding have been in their current position for less than five years, compared with 50% in last year's survey. And nearly half have been on the job for one to three years: the bare minimum when it comes to effecting significant change. It's a disturbing trend.

What's going on? Many of you report to the CEO and serve on your company's executive board. These are positive developments. Yet you report a dearth of time for strategic activities, the very tasks you are in the boardroom for. Sure, you are overwhelmed with the day-to-day management of projects and people; we all are. But you need to make time for the thinking, the relationship building, the selling of IT as well. You need to educate those CEOs and business people who haven't yet witnessed true IT leadership and make the space to make a difference.

That's not to say you should want to build your career at only one company. Moving around is the norm today, and you have more to offer if you've had diverse professional experience. It's also how you make more money; some of our survey respondents report raises of up to 80% when changing jobs this past year. Indeed, many of you plan to keep on moving: Over the next few years, 70% of survey respondents want to move on from their current role.

Nonetheless, you owe it to yourself and your company to make the time to develop, and then execute, a vision. Results are what will truly enhance your career, and they build respect for IT out in the business world as well. Those returns will pay for themselves many times over. And that would make a very big difference -- for all of us.

Anne McCrory is editorial director of CIO Decisions and the CIO Decisions conference. Write to her at amccrory@ciodecisions.com.

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