What it takes to become Santa's CIO

Santa, Inc. is a complex organization that is using dated technology in all areas of their operation and has no leadership to spearhead modernization. In order to hire a CIO, the interview committee has posed several questions for highlighting many of the challenges that will be faced by everyone that celebrates Christmas.

tracking santa
Credit: Thinkstock

I just returned from my interview to become Santa’s next CIO. You might think your organization needs some major upgrades, but could it be of the magnitude that I will face? Imagine walking into the world’s largest factory AND distribution center to discover everything is based on technology from hundreds of years ago!

Following are a few of the questions that I was asked during the interview and the responses that I believe will demonstrate my ability to assume this exciting position.

Santa CIO interview questionnaire

Question
What do you believe is the most serious threat to the future of Santa, Inc.?

Answer
There are so many threats that come to mind. For starters, even though there is an enormous staff for getting everything ready for Christmas Day, Santa is a one-man show for the big event. Is there a backup plan in place should he require a sick-day or if he just up and quits? Also, it takes all year to prepare “the list” and I am guessing that it can’t be replaced in the event of theft or fire. Redundancy… Redundancy is essential for organizations requiring this level of reliability.

Using technology, Santa may be able to train other staff to serve during an absence. This eliminates stress on both himself and the organization as nobody wants to risk a failed Christmas. Meanwhile, a secondary location, such as the cloud, should be selected to warehouse a backup copy of the data stored on the list. Having a readily-available, secondary data-source turns an unfortunate coffee spill into an office joke rather than a firing experience.

Question
Describe possible opportunities to improve efficiency of the organization.

Answer
Just off the top of my head, let’s talk about all these letters being mailed to the North Pole each year. Each one is carefully crafted, I assume with crayon, placed in an envelope and delivered to the mail processing room. These letters are then read, cross referenced with the toy production line, and manually catalogued for future needs. An online form, integrated with a database far larger than healthcare.gov, would save precious Elf hours that could be used for production duties.

Every child acts unruly in January because they know that Santa takes the month off to recover. After all, everyone needs a vacation. Using new surveillance technology, such as Elf worn body cameras, will allow true 24x7x365 monitoring of all children. Modern video software will allow each child to be tagged so that all violations can be tallied for an overall evaluation to determine gift vs. coal.

Question
Are there potential impediments to modernizing operations? If so, please describe.

Answer
While Santa has expressed an interest in using modern technology to enhance the organization, he seems to be a little old fashioned. Change cannot happen without a champion to push it through. We will need to make sure that all proposed upgrades are understood and fully supported or they will likely be doomed. Technology should only be proposed if it furthers the overall strategy of the organization.

Most of the current systems in place are beyond “legacy” and will require expertise to integrate with new software. Studies have shown many employees that work on the oldest systems have little interest in learning to work with the newer systems while many of the younger technicians have no desire to learn older technology. It will take a good mix of skills to bring everything together.

Question
Discuss both short-term and long-term advantages that Santa will achieve by selecting you for this position.

Answer
Increased time for doing other things. Technology can be used to automate many tasks that require attention that should be spent in more productive areas. One can only imagine how long it takes to check the list once only to turn around and check it twice. Programming software with the parameters that Santa has deemed appropriate and allowing artificial intelligence to take over should allow Santa to get some extra rest before the big day.

Reliability. Santa wears glasses for a reason. His eyes aren’t as good as they once were and they most certainly get tired reading all of those letters. Two years in a row, he must have misread my letter and delivered my gifts to someone else. Designing an optimum database that includes a query for all "good kids" with no matching presents will prevent unwarranted sadness on future Christmases.

I look forward to sharing my many ideas and demonstrating my abilities as we modernize Santa, Inc.  The hardworking employees of the North Pole deserve it!

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