Interim IT directors: temporary solution or established fixture?

Posted on Mar 2016

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According to Korn Ferry, the average CIO will only hold his or her position for 4.3 years before moving on; a relatively short period of time, particularly when compared to other members of the C-Suite - with CFOs staying in their roles for a little over five years on average and CEOs holding on for eight years. CIOs are often appointed based on the specific circumstances of the company at that juncture, but when the company grows and new challenges and problems come along they may not be geared up to tackle those issues as effectively. Once again it’s time for a change in personnel, with the costs and disruption that this brings.

At Intuitus we’re seeing a growing demand for interim CIOs, CTOs and IT Directors, which is consistent with the lack of stability in the average tenure of the permanent CIO. Increasingly, organisations are hiring CTOs, CIOs and IT Directors on an interim basis as part of a planned strategy, and not simply to bridge a gap before the new regime can supplement the previous one. Businesses need different skills at different stages in their lifecycle and interim staff can help fill this need, as well as helping to drive change quickly. This adapt or die attitude is particularly relevant in the technology sector, where the pace of change is heightened.

With IR35 it’s even more important to remember that interim staff have a different role to fill than permanent team members. They drive key projects, often within a limited time frame, and with a specific deliverable. With a proven track record in change and implementation, they will get to know an organisation and its problems in the first instance, and will benefit from being one step removed from any disruptive, internal politics. Initial steps will typically include the building of a technology strategy and roadmap, a target technology operating model and a transformation programme.

For example, Gleneagles, the 5 star luxury hotel, spa and golf resort in Scotland, identified a need for an interim IT Director to lead the IT function following the sale of the company by drinks conglomerate Diageo to Ennismore. The specialist expertise in IT change did not at that time exist within Gleneagles’. Many within the Intuitus team have experience of roles in similar situations and the required change expertise, so Gleneagles appointed Intuitus consultant Tony Carr as interim IT Director for four months to create and implement a transition plan.

Given the benefits that interim staff can bring, why aren’t more companies hiring them? One perceived disadvantage of the interim model is cost; typical day rates will be high when compared to the day rate of a member of staff on an annual salary. However, when you factor in additional employee costs, such as benefits, sick leave and holiday pay, training and business overheads, the actual difference in cost isn’t necessarily as great as it first seems.

The interim model allows organisations to benefit from hiring an individual with the relevant expertise and experience at very short notice to deliver a specific deliverable. Furthermore, contracts can be either full or part-time, and flexible in terms of length – typical interim IT management contracts with Intuitus last for 3 to 12 months. 

Organisations will often require a CTO or IT Director for 9 to 12 months to set up and drive a specific change programme and they will then seek to hire a permanent lower-level Manager to manage business as usual. In this instance an interim role offers the ideal solution. Ultimately, PE-backed businesses are fast-growth companies that will always be the focus of change. The right team next week may not be the right team in six months’ time. Interims are an efficient and effective way of achieving positive transformation within an organisation and will help get the results needed.

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