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As IT budgets grow, so does the average CIO tenure

The average CIO tenure increases as IT budgets increase -- and technology executives expand their reach throughout the enterprise.

Thanks to growing IT budgets and an improving economy, cio tenures are increasing, according to a survey of 1,400 CIOs by the research firm Gartner Inc.

According to the December 2004 survey conducted by Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, the average CIO tenure is 4.3 years. In addition, those CIOs expect to stay in their current jobs for another five years. That's a significant change from 2001, when Gartner found that CIOs were only staying in their positions for an average of three years.

Much CIO turnover in the past five years was due to the boom and bust, said Mark McDonald, a group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. CIOs who had been skilled at spending money did not have the temperament or skills to last through the lean years that followed, McDonald said. Those CIOs were replaced, and have hung on tightly, in many cases, until now -- and they intend to stay put and see through major IT initiatives now that times aren't so tough.

"CIOs that were able to last through the lean times were able to make the transition when technology spending opened up again," McDonald said. "Running an effective business is running an effective business."

Many CIOs at retail companies seem intent on staying put, said David Hogan, CIO of Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation, who has been in his position for two and a half years. During the craze, Hogan said, CIOs were often lured away -- by the promise of big pay -- to businesses that subsequently failed.

"After the boom fell apart, CIOs went back to their traditional roles," Hogan said. "Over the past two or three years, CIO jobs have stabilized."

CIOs are staying in their roles longer in the trucking industry, said Mike Hugos, CIO of Network Services Co., a distribution cooperative in Mount Prospect, Ill.

"My peers are staying put a lot longer than they used to," Hugos said, adding that nowadays it's post-merger pain that worries CIOs most. "Ones that have left their jobs at the CIO level often leave now because their company is acquired."

In an era of increased IT spending, it is also easier for CIOs to do a good job -- and retain their jobs, said Tony Treccapelli, managing director of New York-based consultancy Alvarez & Marsal LLC. "In the past, there was not enough budget money and demands were too high," he said. "Now budgets are less constrained; there is more room for CIOs to add value."

When CIOs do choose to move on, many find that their business-side experience comes in handy, said Marc Cecere, a vice president at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. Some CIOs have moved into roles in purchasing, Cecere said. Others have taken positions that facilitate communications between business units and IT departments. Hogan said some CIOs in retail have moved on to direct supply chain and merchandise planning operations.

According to the Gartner survey, 16% of the CIOs plan to move on to a business role.

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