Unequal Pay for Equal Experience

By Allan Alter  |  Posted 04-07-2007

Top I.T. executives at small and midsize companies are much less likely to have business cards that say "CIO" than their peers at organizations with revenues topping $500 million. But in other ways, the two groups are not very different. They have the same aspirations to create business strategy. Their personal backgrounds are comparable, primarily IT with business and consulting experience. Mid-market CIOs have put in as many years, if not more, as the top IT executive. And both like what they are doing; more than 90 percent enjoy their jobs most of the time. But one thing CIOs at SMBs can't be too happy about is their pay: On average, they earn 58 cents for every dollar earned by CIOs at larger organizations. If there's a coming CIO shortage, as the Society for Information Management recently reported (see CIO Insight, March 2007), this income disparity is likely to lead ambitious mid-market CIOs to look for opportunities at larger companies.

Finding 1
Are You Experienced? Mid-Market CIOs Are

CIOs at mid-market companies are similar to their peers at larger firms in age, experience and background. Both are typically just under 50 years in age, come from IT backgrounds, and have plenty of on-the-job experience. In fact, the top IT executives at companies with revenues of less than $500 million have been at their current jobs, or in the CIO role, for half a year longer than their counterparts at larger companies. They also have held a wide variety of jobs before being named to the top tech position. The biggest differences? Mid-market CIOs are less likely to have a CIO title, or to work for companies that conduct business in foreign countries. It also appears that fewer women are advancing to the CIO position at mid-market firms.

Finding 2
Wanted: Upward Mobility

The opportunity to earn more is too good to pass up. CIO s at mid-market companies earn much less than their peers at larger companies, even though they have as much, or more, experience as CIO . No wonder these CIOs are more likely to be on the outlook for a new job: It's a chance to make significantly more money.

Finding 3
CIOs Want to Focus on the Big Picture

The CIO role is changing at SMBs, but the shift away from daily IT responsibilities isn't quite as drastic as it is at larger companies. That's probably because mid-market CIO s don't have as deep a bench on which to offload IT work. Still, they seem determined to get away from project oversight and day-to-day operations. One blind spot: While they are growing more interested in finding new technologies, they are making it less of a personal priority to find and develop IT talent. How will they compete with larger companies?

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