Back to IT`s Future

It was like I woke up and found myself back in 2009.

When I took over as editor in chief of CIO Insight in December 2008, I looked at the year ahead as an amazing opportunity–a challenge, and a time of certain crisis, but still, an opportunity.

More importantly. I saw the same thing for IT leaders. Sure, an unprecedented recession would lead to tightened IT budgets, increased pressures and an inevitable decline in morale. But it also presented the perfect opportunity for CIOs to flex their business muscle–and finally prove to their C-level colleagues that they run more than just a cost center.

I said it last year (over and over), and I’m saying it again now.

Since my last column, I’ve had dozens of conversations with some top-notch CIOs from small, medium and large companies. The consensus among them: 2010 will be eerily similar to 2009.

Budgets are flat, hiring is practically nonexistent, and new projects aren’t in the cards. Not surprisingly, optimism among those CIOs is in very, very short supply.

Given all the uncertainty over the recovery, it’s hard to say they’re wrong to feel that way. Don’t get me wrong–plenty of IT leaders see a light at the end of the tunnel. They’re the kinds of leaders who see opportunity in crisis. But it won’t be easy, just like last year.

Many of those conversations also alerted me to another troubling trend: A considerable number of talented IT leaders lost (or stepped away from) their roles in recent months.

As everyone knows, a number of factors can play into CIO turnover. New CEOs clean house and form their own teams. Some CIOs decide to step away and pursue other ventures. And others simply fail to accomplish their objectives.

Despite the varied reasons, make no mistake: This will happen all over again this year–and mostly because of professional failure, I suspect.

I noted in my blog a few months back that executive recruiters anticipate a high level of CEO turnover this year. That’s one bad sign for CIOs. But the bigger, badder sign is that 2010 will be very much like 2009–only this time, there’s a catch. When businesses began navigating through the depths of the recession, few knew exactly where they’d end up. They buckled down on spending and hoped for the best. They expressed few goals explicitly–well, except to simply survive.

But they learned quite a few things in the process. Now, as they steer through the teetering recovery, they’re putting even more pressure on their IT leaders, but this time with specific goals attached. If CIOs can’t make the grade, they’ll end up on the unemployment line along with so many of the IT pros they had to let go in the past few years.

So if you don’t believe me that this year holds some opportunity for CIOs, think about this way: You have yet another chance to display your strategic business acumen, but more importantly, a chance to prove that you belong in your post.

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