Chairman and CEO — keep them separated?

Austin-based software companies have recently split their CEO and chairman positions, mirroring a trend that industry observers say has become more popular among companies that have grown beyond the startup stage.

Last week, Perficient Inc. (Nasdaq: PRFT) reported that in September President and Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Davis will succeed 10-year CEO Jack McDonald, who will remain board chairman.

The announcement came as the company posted second-quarter losses, but officials said the two events were unrelated and noted that Perficient initially reported the succession plan in a March filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In the filing, the company indicated that McDonald had formed a committee to evaluate a possible McDonald campaign for U.S. Congress.

In June, Forgent Networks Inc., which is in a proxy battle with shareholders, replaced then-CEO Richard Snyder with then-Chief Operating Officer Nancy Harris. Snyder said he initially proposed the change last year and that the proxy fight provided an additional reason to do it.

Such shifts in leadership can be for appearances, whether during diminished profits or proxy fights.