IT Careers 2014

Why few want to be the CIO anymore

More than half of the respondents to our survey say they don't aspire to be a CIO. Here's why politics, pay and a lack of prestige can sink CIO aspirations.

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All of which makes for something of a stalemate. At the same time that so many technology professionals aspire to advance through tech-focused, hands-on roles, more and more of those roles are being handed off to service providers and contractors. Increasingly, the technology-related careers that remain at non-IT companies fall under a kind of hybrid role, which requires business and process acumen plus enough IT experience to understand how to use technology to advance the business.

The upside of this scenario is that talented technical professionals have a place to grow and thrive with service providers that are fully engaged with the latest technologies and their uses.

"There are more career paths into and out of IT than there used to be," says Markus Bierl, CIO at Franke Foodservice Systems in Nashville. "It's much more important that you know and understand the business. I have people in my organization who came from the business side and I have IT people who transferred back to a business role. An IT career path is no longer a straight career path," he says.

CIOs from healthcare, financial services and manufacturing tell a similar story. Fast-changing business processes, the need for speed, consumers' appetites for customization, and ever-mounting government and industry regulation are all working to complicate day-to-day business. What they need internally are people in IT with business knowledge and deep industry expertise.

"SaaS and the consumerization of IT and cloud services are driving a clear wedge between the two branches of an IT career," says Bill Mayo, senior IT director at Biogen Idec, a biotech company in Weston, Mass. "We're taking business-facing IT people and switching them to directly reporting to the business with a dotted line reporting back to IT."

The upshot is that the most technical of the techies will likely be pursuing their IT careers with service providers, while more business-oriented IT professionals will remain in IT departments to manage contractors and oversee service provider agreements or move into hybrid roles outside of IT.

"Ultimately, it's the delivery of services that is being commoditized," says Joe Donnici, vice president of core IT at Quintiles, a clinical research company in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

"You are starting to see a thinning out of database administrators and other administrative resources because more and more companies are supplying managed services to companies," Donnici says. "Some of the specialized positions in applications, such as PeopleSoft, also begin to go away because there are SaaS providers. The macro trend is for techie people to go to SaaS and cloud companies and to internally retain more business roles."

That assessment resonates with Allen at Delta Children's Products. "I see more and more that in the future I will end up at a provider company or a consulting company, providing either infrastructure or software as a service," he says. "More of us [IT professionals without CIO aspirations] will end up having to move to those positions."

An IT career still comes down to pursuing either a technical or managerial track, says Bob Dulski, director of IT at the Chicago Zoological Society. And that carries through to the CIO role. "It's not that important anymore that they know about VMware or cloud computing," he says. "The CIO is a different kind of person."

Next: IT pros get training on their own dime

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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