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CTO and CIO search, Modern Search Part Two

Patt Lynes, Kertsy Bletso and Ross Stacey photographed by Matt Gore/iconbusinessmedia

By Mark Chillingworth

Organisations expect a diverse short list when recruiting a new CTO or CIO and interim business technology leaders have never had it so good, three leaders in executive recruitment specialising in CIOs and CTOs tell the Horizon Business Innovation podcast (part one here).  In the second of two podcasts Kersty Bletso of BIE Executive, Sullivan & Stanley founder Pat Lynes and Ross Stacey describe the changing landscape of search.

“You have to have a gender balance and diversity on your shortlist and that is incredibly important,” Bletso says.  “It is us on the coal face that can make that difference.” The three search executive all described how CEOs are increasingly aware of the need for diversity and the benefits it brings to their organisations.  We at Horizon have seen over the last eight years how the increasing disruptiveness of technology is leading to CIOs with greater soft skills landing the most demanding roles.

Our three search executives are well known in the CTO and CIO community for being community focused and tell the podcast how nurturing their network is critical. Stacey says CEOs are “engaging me to find the best possible person for their business and that requires a rigorous process and you have to do that double quick time”.

“Network building is a passion of mine,” Lynes adds. The recruiters are collaborating across their networks too and they have to, as, just with all of us in our roles, the executive recruitment industry faces disruption. “There is a rise of the internal talent function,” Ross says, a trend Lynes says he is also witnessing. “The reality is though, just because we all have LinkedIn; LinkedIn is not access to those people, you have to have the relationship to engage,” Stacey says.

Bletso agrees, “As soon as you get into the leadership roles there is a personal element to it.” As does Lynes: “You can’t automate the personal relationship.”

“If I know a competitor has a really good role, I will tell CIOs,” Stacey adds.


In a highly competitive market, CIOs need more than a great CV to secure the roles with the most transformation opportunity our search leaders say. As a result they’re getting involved through helping CIOs and CTOs secure opportunities to increase their personal brand, if that product will increase the brand value of the business technology leader.

“There are some hugely talented CIOs that need to help understand building a personal brand and they appreciate us going beyond the usual process,” Bletso of BIE Executive says.

“I try to add more value to the process and the candidate does not want to feel like another number, so we are trying to bring their story to life with video,” Lynes at Sullivan & Stanley says. All three suggest that the CV is of little value for the level of executive they are dealing with. “In an ideal world there will no longer be a CV, you will get case studies, blogs, videos, you will get a 360 degree view of the CIO. A CV is awful,” Bletso says of the video service Lynes is offering. Stacey advises CIOs and CTOs to engage with transformation leaders like consultant Marc Dowd and story telling specialists like Icon Business Media, producers of the Horizon Business Innovation podcast.

“When a client engages us, I see myself as an extension of their brand. Candidates see us as an extension of their brand and as a person that allows them to engage with the client,” Stacey adds.

Interim roles

As a veteran watcher of the CTO and CIO community I have seen of late a change in attitude towards interim roles with the many industry leaders reconsidering interim in a more positive light. Many technology suppliers however have not realised this.

“One of the big drivers is that change is getting harder and organisations are looking for quick fixes and that is increasing interim opportunities,” interim specialist Pat Lynes says. “You get some really strong candidates that want a different career, they want more of a gig portfolio, so there is a talent drain into the gig economy. I have never seen so much consulting fatigue and that has driven our organisation. Bigger organisations want to use more independents, that is giving birth to more interim opportunities.

“There are a lot of organisations that have IT functions that is traditional and infrastructure led, so a lot of interim CIOs are being hired to take it from the old to the new and then a longer term CIO is hired. You don’t have to be as politically savvy,” Stacey observes of the interim market.

“The perception of interim changed in 2008 when the wheels fell off the economy.  So there are a lot of people go through the big four consutancies and end up in sales, they want to focus on delivery,” Bletso says of the drain from leading consultancy businesses into interim roles she is seeing.

“There is another thing at play here, there are interims partnering and coaching incumbent CIOs,” Lynes observes. Stacey agrees: “the new CIOs are less afraid and less threatened and see the value in that help from a seasoned professional.”

“An interim has a licence to tell the truth and the board may not like that. You are interim by your very nature you are going in to make a change,” Lynes adds; which Bletso agrees with: “interims can be a bit more open, brazen and honest.”

Body shopping

The recruitment industry has seen its reputation tarnished in recent years and practices such as body shopping are the cause, Horizon took the opportunity to discuss what body shopping is and why CTOs and CIOs have to endure it.

“Body shopping is a horrible word, body shopping to me is just CV shifting and recruitment as a transactional process,” Lynes says.

“For me it is the complete lack of personal connection between a piece a paper, the ctrl f school of recruitment.  Just a check of salary and notice period and it is horrible and there is no value in it and that is the bit of our industry that everyone sees,” Bletso says of how business technology leaders receive a slew of CVs and constant cold calls asking if they require staff.  “It is a broken value chain,” Lynes says.

“CIOs and tech leaders are becoming aware of this practice and that they are being given a grad for £2k a day,” Stacey adds of how the recruiters ape poor practices by other sectors in showcase a Grade A team for the sale, but once the deal is done supplying grade F.

The Horizon podcast, recorded in preparation for the New Year, asked the three search leaders whether 2017 is going to be a good year to change role?

“2017 is going to be manic,” Kersty Bletso of BIE Executive said with positivity. “2017 is going to be a good year, there is continued progress at board level in understanding the value of technology,” Ross Stacey adds.

Pat Lynes of Sullivan & Stanley says: “Organisation that will have to shift from need to change to have to change and a lot of that change will be technology led.”

(Pic Matt Gore/iconbusinessmedia)


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