What CIO would divulge the intimate details of his mobile technology or cloud strategy with a major competitor? Exchange governance tips with her counterpart at a rival firm? Join forces with a seeming archrival to develop a data-sharing platform?
Jay Ferro would. So would Jeff Como. Robert Machen, too. And they do. Ferro is the CIO of the American Cancer Society (ACS). Como leads the technology organization for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). Machen is CIO at ALSAC, the fundraising arm of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Their nonprofit organizations compete for funding, for research attention, for hearts and minds. But the three CIOs have forged an informal alliance to share IT best practices, technology tips, and personal support.
"Sure, we're in competition for the same donor dollars. And maybe it sounds like archrivals Pepsi and Coke getting together and saying, 'Hey, let's just split the market,'" says Ferro, who says the three met at a conference for CIOs at nonprofits after he joined ACS two years ago. "But we're in it for a higher calling."
A similar coalition of like-minded CIOs has emerged among the IT leaders who support the work of the National Cancer Institute's clinical and research centers throughout the country. Once fierce competitors for major grant dollars and scientific discovery, their organizations now increasingly collaborate as they seek the next breakthroughs in treating a disease affecting one in three women and one in two men. And leading this confederacy of clinics are their CIOs, an increasingly close-knit band of professionals, many of whom have dual backgrounds in research science and IT.