Late last year, the global consultancy Booz & Company polled 60 CIOs at companies around the world in search of wisdom about CIO success, motivation, and retention. 

Though the survey catered to large companies, you'll see that the findings are highly relevant to smaller organizations too. Even if you don't yet have a formal CIO function in your C-suite, you certainly have a key employee (or key people) who are the highest-ranking techies. Here are three tips that can help keep those employees from departing. 

1. Offer a path to promotion, and to new challenges. The Booz survey shows that CIOs jump from job to job more frequently than other executives. In fact, about 40 percent had held three or more CIO roles. "This suggests that many CIOs don't see room for advancement (for example, to chief operating officer) at their current organization, and they move on," observe the authors.

In fact, almost 90 percent of the CIOs said the main reason they jumped to their current positions was "the new professional challenge" that came with the position. More than half indicated that they were dissatisfied with their current role. 

"Providing new business and technological problems to solve, and the support needed to solve them successfully, will certainly help provide ongoing professional challenges and keep your CIO engaged," say the authors. 

The best thing you can do is ask your techie what those challenges would be. For example, in the Booz survey, a strong minority of CIOs said they wanted their next job to include some P&L (profit and loss) responsibilities. 

2. Make sure they're properly supported on major projects. Under what circumstances do high-ranking techies typically get fired? According to 70 percent of those surveyed, the failure of a pricey, multi-year project is often the main cause. While there are certainly times when a tech leader is to blame for a poor implementation, you can imagine that another reason for the failure is a lack of support from the top team. 

Moreover, 70 percent of those surveyed indicated that they inherited these difficult projects; that's not exactly an ideal circumstance--please, get us out of this mess, be our tech savior--under which to come aboard. 

One CIO told the authors: "If you're not extremely careful with these programs, business stamina and patience run out. 'Just get the #@*%$!! system in once and for all so that we can pick ourselves up again and move on' becomes the dominant refrain."

At the end of the day, the result is a costly, lengthy implementation whose impact hardly justifies its time and expense. The bottom line: Avoid the tendency to scapegoat or single out CIOs for high degree-of-difficulty projects. In many cases, they are not the source of the problem. And it's unreasonable to expect them to salvage the project without your enduring support. 

3. Make sure they're happy with the reporting structure. Whether a CIO reports to the CEO or the CFO can make a big difference in the job. For example, those reporting to the CEO said they felt empowered to take a more "enterprise-wide" perspective on all issues. By contrast, those reporting to the CFO "shift the primary emphasis of IT to the cost agenda and automating operations."

Mind you: One is not necessarily better than the other. It truly depends on the preferences of your techies. What matters most, as noted above, is that any line of reporting contains a path to promotion and new challenges.

In the survey, the CIO of an energy company who reports to his CFO said, "A lot of this comes down to the nature of the relationship between the executives. If the CIO is credible [to] and accepted by the top team, and has the IT management basics like service and cost under tight control, the fact that they report to the CFO becomes more of a convenience and doesn't have to make a lot of difference."