Every technology executive knows how important back-up can be for a firm’s computer network, but many have not taken the same precautionary measures for their own positions by grooming a successor.

By identifying and training someone to fill your shoes in the future, you can ensure a smooth transition should you receive a promotion, retire, leave the company or take an emergency absence from work.

While the practice may seem risky to some people (after all, what if the person appears better qualified to perform your job than you are?) it actually makes it easier for you to advance in your career because there are no concerns about who will take your place.

In addition, succession planning can be critical to the stability of your IT department. You’ll have an employee in place who already understands the strategic issues affecting your organization’s information systems. As a result, he or she can move into the leadership role and continue current processes and practices with minimal disruption.

You’ll also demonstrate to all IT staff that there is advancement potential at the firm, which can increase motivation and retention.

The Envelope Please

The ideal person to assume your role isn’t necessarily the highest-ranking employee reporting to you. An IT manager who enjoys having direct involvement in technology initiatives and daily interaction with staff may not be satisfied in an executive role requiring significant time planning strategy, overseeing budgets and attending meetings. Take a look at all senior-level professionals on your team as potential protigis to ensure you find the right fit.

Consider not only the skill set needed to perform your job today but also what might be needed in the future. Perhaps the company has long-term expansion plans that will require the CIO to manage IT staff and technology needs in remote locations? Make sure your leading candidate has the talent to rise to the challenge (and likes to travel).

Some abilities can be learned through mentoring, seminars and training sessions, while others cannot. A senior IT professional may be a whiz with Microsoft operating systems but never develop the interpersonal skills needed to inspire and lead a group of employees.