Leading IT is (maybe) becoming less fulfilling, less strategic, and better paid, compared to last year. And folks are very open to changing jobs. Analyzing the Harvey Nash 2007/08 CIO Survey reveals some possible reasons, but first, let's look at a snapshot of survey responders before jumping to conclusions.
Fifty-two per cent had budgets under US$10 million, 49 per cent lacked C-level titles (they self-identified senior or middle IT managers), 63 per cent were not on the main/operational board of their firms or thought the question wasn't applicable. Meanwhile responders reported that only 51 per cent of projects were under budget, and half reported at least some projects failing or cancelled (this seems low!!), with the biggest challenge cited as poorly defined scope and requirements. Meanwhile, the majority (83 per cent) of responders were either actively looking, selectively applying or open to calls about possible job changes.
Other very interesting tidbits: IT organizations are a blend of one-third contractors, two-thirds full-time staff, only 27 per cent of responders felt they were doing an excellent level of building and maintaining relationships with the business.
Okay, now let's jump to conclusions:
Without a C-level title, the role runs out of steam after a few years. IT is a change-oriented and influence job. In the first year, execs survey the landscape; year two they launch projects and programs, and in year three may either generally satisfy or disappoint even a few. A promotion to C-level, entrance onto a management committee, and expansion of influence and/or responsibility keeps the role energized. Absent these, individuals stagnate and look longingly at the door.
Project failure punishes reputation, especially in smaller firms. In smaller firms (as indicated by relatively low budgets of responders), if IT leaders haven't risen to board level or CIO title after three years, it is because at least some segment of business constituent is unhappy and complaining, perhaps because their poorly defined but 'critical' project failed or didn't finish. The smaller the firm, the more exposed any sort of mismatch between expectations and delivery has a negative effect on an IT leader.
Changing jobs yields career progression and a raise. The job around the corner is always better than the job in hand - promising a title boost, more money, and another chance at reputation redemption. It also enables leaving troublesome projects, business constituents, and perhaps under-performing staff behind. The fresh start, however, without doing a better job next time on managing relationships will yield a similar outcome.
Contractor penetration demonstrates lack of commitment. Responders cited one third of their staffs as contractors. This hides a worrisome assumption about the continuity (or lack) of work in firms, and in particular reveals a disconnect between staffing and excellence (and sustainability) of business relationships. Even allowing for the arriving and departing executive responders, this hedging against permanence contributes to a perception by prospective entrants that IT is not the career of choice; undermines the ability of staff to develop the management skills needed; and prevents the organization from developing a deep understanding of the business they are in. That, in turn, results in more misunderstood requirements, project failures, and management churn.