Numbers Are In, and CIO Tenure on the Rise

Ann All

On Friday, I shared results of a McKinsey survey that seemed to show CIOs worry that their job performance isn't meeting the needs of the business. But based on CIO tenure, which can serve as a sort of litmus test of companies' satisfaction with CIOs, tech executives seem to be faring better than many of their colleagues in the C-suite.


According to's "State of the CIO" research, average CIO tenure now stands at 5.3 years, up from 4.5 years in 2004, five years in 2007 and 4.4 years last year. That compares favorably with other C-suite positions, including:

  • CFOs, whose average tenure is 4.5 years, according to and executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates.
  • CMOs , whose average tenure is a measly 2.3 years, according to executive recruiter Spencer Stuart.
  • COOs, who are only employed by 42 percent of Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies, according to executive search company Crist Associates.


Both CEOs and human resources chiefs tend to stay on the job longer than CIOs, with average tenures of 7.9 years and just under 6.5 years, respectively, according to the article. (Speaking of CEOs, IT Business Edge contributor Rob Enderle last week offered his seven top reasons for CEO failure. His seventh and final reason faults the board of directors rather than the CEO.)


A survey of North American IT executives yielded numbers higher than, putting the average tenure for senior IT jobs at 6.3 years. Midlevel IT executives and IT managers were somewhat less stable, with average tenures of 5.68 years and 5.36 years, respectively.


Executives in just three industries enjoyed average tenures of less than five years. No surprise, all three sectors are in the midst of dramatic change. They are:

  • Telecommunications, where IT execs stay an average 4.7 years.
  • Financial services, 4.8 years.
  • IT-related services; 4.9 years.


The numbers aren't far off those found by the Society for Information Management in its annual CIO survey. According to SIM, U.S. CIOs held their jobs an average 4.6 years, a slight increase over 2008 and 2007 and one year longer than the average tenure of 3.6 years in 2006. The numbers are higher in Europe and Asia. SIM found European CIOs serve an average 5.5 years, while Chinese CEOs put in an average 6.6 years.

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