Handling the transitional period when leaving your job as a CIO
Human Resources

Handling the transitional period when leaving your job as a CIO

A CIO may decide to leave an organization for a number of reasons, but in most circumstances, they will want to leave their jobs gracefully. So frequent is the merry-go-round and so influential is a network in the industry that it’s likely they will come across personnel again, and in some cases, they may even recruit former staff to work on their team.

So, what is the best way to leave?

This isn’t about the way notice is given to a line manager or CEO, but more about the transitional period after handing in that notice.

It is in a CIO’s interest to leave the organization’s IT function in the best possible way as it reinforces the work they’ve done to get it to that place, and this enables them to maintain credibility and respect from staff and peers.

But CIOs can play a number of different roles within a business, and it can therefore depend on what kind of an IT leader they are, before deciding how to handle the transitional period.

Bob Brown, who is leaving his role as CIO of Manchester City Council in September this year, explains that he is a transformational CIO.

“I’ve been at the council for about three years and I’ve positioned it well for the future; I leave it in very solid ground and foundation,” he says.

“I lead a very large team of people and we have an industry-recognized operating model, with very clear financial and risk models which were not in place three years ago,” he adds.

The CIO of LV= insurance, Richard Warner suggests that companies need to have the right processes and methods in place so that people know instinctively how to carry out any type of activity.

“Being a well-run, disciplined organization can’t be overstated,” says Warner, who adds that his company invested in making sure everyone was ITIL trained on the service side – meaning that regardless of people moving out of the company, there was always the capability and maturity of delivering quality day in and day out.


Good people can cope without a CIO

Other CIOs who may have merely been ‘keeping the lights on’ type leaders, may not have worked on specific methods, processes or models, but nevertheless may have implemented the right technology and recruited a good team.

Richard Tallboy, CIO of pan-Asian restaurant chain Wagamama, says that it is imperative for leaders that they have the right people behind them, so that they can disappear without a hole left in the business.

In turn, this would ensure there isn’t a panic.

“If it is a function that works well, then the CIO who is leaving will be leaving a legacy which people can keep on working with, and there might be one or two people who can really step up in the CIO’s absence in the short or long term,” says LV=’s Warner.

He suggests that teams should be resilient, self-sufficient and hold enough confidence to get on with their jobs – a good CIO would have made sure they know what they need to do if he or she is not there.

As Brown states, “you can’t do this kind of role on your own”.

“I’m very fortunate to have recruited and had a very talented team that have supported me, and they will still be here and as such, the person coming in to the organization will have a softer landing than they would have had otherwise,” he says.

For Wagamama’s Tallboy, the importance of staff isn’t just about their technical skill or initiative, but also how well they’ve delivered the strategy.

“My plan would be, when I do leave, to have a succession plan behind me, where the team has bought into the strategy and hopefully, it’s the right strategy and they carry on and deliver it,” he says.

Of course, most businesses will look to begin their recruitment plans as soon as they receive notice that a CIO wants to leave. They may hire an interim CIO, promote someone internally for the short-term or long-term, or hold off on appointing someone until they get the right person.

Manchester City Council want to hire someone with less experience than Brown in more of a ‘director of IT’ position.

“I’m hopeful that whoever is appointed will inevitably be experienced or senior enough to understand and discuss our strategy thoroughly,” he states.

For Brown, the transition will include being part of the team that recruits the next IT leader for the council – and because he has made known his intention of stepping down so early, he believes he can help ease them into the role.

“It is much better than if they had come in to a role which was embroiled in turmoil; I can support and transition the person in, in a really well-managed way.

“It isn’t felt as acutely as if it was done in a timeframe that we have seen historically before. Someone coming in after the CIO has gone is always a challenge, and equally someone coming in with the CIO going out the following week is also a challenge. In this case, I’m committed to try and do the right thing for this organization and for the people that we serve, such as that it’s not seen as natively impactful in any way I could possibly control,” he says.

Warner suggests that CIOs should have a level of responsibility to ensure that the business can thrive without them.

“You have a responsibility to the organization, to the executive board, and to your own team to ensure you have the capability in place for when you leave,” he states.


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Sooraj Shah

Sooraj Shah is a freelance technology journalist whose key focus is on how IT leaders are transforming their organisations using emerging technology. 

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