Tom Peck has been on the forefront of change multiple times. Back in the early 2000s, when he was CIO of Entertainment Operations at NBC Universal, Peck was on the cutting edge of moving analog-based entertainment media (VHS tapes!) to digital files, a precursor to today's on-demand digital streams.
He also launched a Web-based portal for managing all aspects of TV show development. Then as CIO at MGM Mirage (2006-2008), he pioneered smart hotel rooms (which automatically open the blinds, turn on the TV and adjust the temperature), dynamic hotel pricing and server-based gaming at casinos. Next, as CIO of Levi Strauss (2008-2012), he ventured into social commerce and helped the iconic maker of blue jeans become the first apparel company to offer social shopping through Facebook.
Peck says staying on the leading edge requires four characteristics: a competitive spirit; a mix of technology, business and leadership skills; a strong team behind you; and the ability to sell your vision.
"I'm willing to invest in new technologies when I can see some business gains," he says.
"I'm pretty good at selling, and you'll probably find that many [trailblazers] are. I have to sell my business leaders, my CEOs--sometimes CEOs at vendor firms--and colleagues that what you're seeing is the best thing you've ever seen, you should take the risk and you should bet on us," says Peck. He's currently CIO--and also head of procurement and travel--at AECOM, a $20 billion architecture, engineering, construction and management services company with nearly 100,000 employees in more than 150 countries.
Peck and the rest of this year's CIO Hall of Fame inductees all have had careers filled with the types of accomplishments that are typical of IT leaders. But all five also have shown a knack for being pioneers in new technologies, business models and processes.
How do they do it? They say they don't set out to implement the latest technologies just to be early adopters. Rather, they start by searching for the best way to solve a problem or seize an opportunity--and that leads to some form of innovation.
"What I get paid to do is move the organization, to put the vision out there and move it forward," says Chris Perretta, CIO at State Street Corp.
Perretta is leading a wide-ranging effort to transform State Street into a digital enterprise. That includes a deploying a groundbreaking IT architecture that features private clouds. The financial services company even obtained a U.S. patent in 2012 related to its private cloud.
Innovation comes from approaching challenges from new angles, Perretta says. "You look at problems through a different lens and demonstrate in a commercial term what the value can be."
It's also important to build a good team and give people room to explore. "You recognize great ideas and really talented people, and you give them oxygen--you give their ideas oxygen," he says.
Ina Kamenz, global CIO at $19.6 billion Eli Lilly, has a similar track record as a pioneer. Her CIO career has included industry leadership roles in preparing for the Y2K date rollover and complying with Sarbanes-Oxley financial regulations. Being "an engineer at heart" helps put her at the forefront, Kamenz says, adding "I'm into process, logic, reasoning, problem-solving. I'm all about making things better for the people, the process, the company."
Kamenz focuses on execution and building business value. "I always believe as a leader in IT it's not just about coming up with the idea, it's delivering and seeing the results," she says.
That's also the case for honoree Steve Phillips, CIO at Avnet, a $27.5 billion global technology distributor. His strategy for virtualizing and greening Avnet's data center saved the company more than $18 million and reduced energy consumption by 10 percent. He pioneered a bring-your-own-device plan, now in its seventh year, that cut wireless expenses by 20 percent.
Top CIOs also develop a culture of innovation. Phillips does that through the annual "CIO Challenge" program he founded several years ago. IT employees submit innovative ideas and Phillips provides up to $50,000 from his budget to implement the suggestion that gets the most votes.
Rebecca Jacoby, longtime CIO at Cisco Systems (now chief of operations), is most proud of transforming the tech vendor's IT department so that it can respond--quickly--to the business's strategic needs.
Cisco's "Fast IT" model features an agile, self-service platform that helps the company and its partners launch services in minutes rather than months. Her team pioneered a context-aware, cloud-based commerce platform for Cisco's ecosystem of partners and resellers, plus a sales analytics tool known internally as DISE (Dynamic Insights for Sales Executives).
Jacoby's philosophy is that IT departments, and the CIOs who lead them, have to continually redefine themselves. "I feed on change. I can't by nature stay still and be happy," she says. "You have to keep reinventing yourself.... You have to look at new technologies and say, 'What are we going to do next?'"