How to Prepare for a CIO Exit

Hurried or unplanned exits can delay a CIO’s departure and entail unnecessary risks for the organization.

With 30% to 50% of executives, including CIOs, leaving the role within the first 18 months, an exit plan is critical for both the executive and the organization.

While some of these transitions might be planned, such as retirement or a new job, others might be unexpected, such as a forced resignation or demotion. Perhaps the only constant when it comes to transitions is that they are inevitable, and that it takes time and effort to craft an exit plan that is favorable to all stakeholders.

A well-executed exit strengthens the CIO’s brand and preserves valuable relationships across stakeholders

“No matter what the exit trigger is, CIOs must always have a transition-ready mindset,” says Remi Gulzar, Senior Director Research at Gartner.

An ideal exit plan brings in focus the personalized set of actions — as appropriate for the role and posture — that a CIO will undertake while transitioning. This includes transitioning to another internal role or to a completely different enterprise.

Read more: 5 Strategies for Successful CIO Leadership Transition

An exit plan should:

  1. Minimize risks to the CIO and enterprise by outlining timing, actions and deliverables.
  2. Recognize all stakeholders and commitments, and address all expectations and concerns.
  3. Reflect the CIO’s brand and leadership stance, and address conversations that need to happen.

“CIOs who can minimize risks will transition gracefully and exit from their role as intended. A well-executed exit strengthens the CIO’s brand and preserves valuable relationships across stakeholders,” says Gulzar.

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Exit planning in 5 steps

There are five steps CIOs can follow to craft their exit plan:

  1. Understand your role. Digitalization is changing your role and digital urgency can shift your role expectations. Assess how your role is perceived in the organization and what your true potential will be in the future. Continuously evaluate if the role and your performance align to the organization’s needs.
  2. Assess your performance and spot vulnerabilities. Recognize the transition triggers in your environment. IT performance that meets and exceeds expectations determines whether CIOs can remain in the role on their own terms.
  3. Prepare for your transition. Take inventory of all stakeholder needs and your own personal ambition to craft an exit plan. Inform stakeholders about their roles in your transition. Plan a course of action that will help you transition to a new role, solidify your past performance and create future opportunities.
  4. Execute your transition. Put your exit plan in place to ensure a smooth onboarding and handover for your successor. Prioritize minimizing any risk to the organization you are exiting from and managing all stakeholder expectations.
  5. Transition and reflect. If you have a formal exit meeting with relevant organizational leadership, reflect on your recognized strengths and the opportunities that you and your team created. Be mindful of the learnings from your old organization and address them in your new role. Always evaluate personal and team performances against business expectations.

Gartner clients can read more in “CIOs Seeking to Successfully Transition Must Create an Exit Plan” by Remi Gulzar et al.

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