Need a new CIO? Why firms are opting to try before they buy

Headhunter's notebook: Plentiful CIO candidates and restructuring are changing the rules...

This is an interesting time for the CIO function, which is under pressure as never before, says headhunter Tim Cook.

IT restructuring is happening across all sectors. Every day we receive CVs from IT directors, and their reports, who are being restructured out of a role or who are looking to move from their sector to another one.

There are some good people out there looking for work. But there are also a lot of mediocre candidates, and IT is often regarded by its business colleagues as being a low-turnover place staffed by poor communicators.

The writing is on the wall for these people, as difficult economic conditions force companies to focus on retaining only those who make a difference. As a result, there is a broad supply of candidates in the market, among whom are, of course, some gems.

Pie chart showing the industry background of CIO candidates who submitted their CVs to Russell Reynolds Associates in the third quarter of 2011

The industry background of CIO candidates submitting CVs to Russell Reynolds Associates in Q3 2011Image: Russell Reynolds Associates

This level of supply is encouraging companies to try before they buy. Organisations are bringing in IT leaders on short-term contracts, with a view to converting them to permanent roles once each side is satisfied with the other.

This approach works well for candidates, too, including internal applicants who are now more likely to be benchmarked against external talent when a new role is being filled.

The graphic, right, shows a breakdown of the sector origins of the candidates who have sent us their CV in the past few months.

It is interesting to note that there is more movement in the IT function in the technology sector than in financial services. However, 65 per cent of CVs we are receiving at the moment are from technology, financial services and professional services firms.

It is also a good time to reorganise the function and to give greater breadth and visibility to those CIOs who are capable of doing more. Natural areas to be added to the CIO's remit include shared services, the supply chain and broader operations.

In our most recent issue of IOPener - a quarterly review of senior European moves in the IT function, and an overview of underlying themes - there are some good examples of where innovation in the IT role is happening in Germany and Spain, prompting the question about whether the CIO function in the UK is innovating enough.

Are the Germans leading the way in...