CIO 100 Award-winners Are 'Risk Busters'

Many of the honorees in the 25th annual CIO 100 awards program are using IT innovation to reduce risks that threaten employees, customers and entire business models.

Fri, July 27, 2012

CIO — CIOs who help create corporate strategy also find themselves responsible for the risks that come with it. These are not the traditional IT-centered aspects of risk management, such as disaster recovery and data security. Rather, CIOs must now manage fundamental corporate risks as serious as outdated business models that threaten to kill the company or faulty processes that could harm employees or customers.

Squashing looming business risks stands out as a key theme among the winners of our annual CIO 100 awards. We honor companies whose projects put IT innovation in the center of their growth strategies. Many of this year's winning projects demonstrate how CIOs lead the way in changing how colleagues work, thereby mitigating profound risks to the company.

"We in this profession have to frame our work in terms of risks and payoffs to the business, not technology projects to check off," says Paul Stamas, vice president of IT at Mohawk Fine Papers, a paper mill that is expanding into digital publishing. Stamas, his CEO and the rest of the company kicked off a corporate transformation two years ago, after they saw a bleak future for Mohawk if it continued to rely on dead-tree paper manufacturing as its only business, he says. In his winning project, Stamas raced to set up an IT infrastructure in the cloud that would let the company experiment with new business models.

It's easier to identify serious business risks when you see the company as a collection of processes--such as dreaming up new products or interacting with customers, says David Kruzner, co-head of consulting at iGate, a consultancy and outsourcing company. The places where those processes slow down or fall apart point to risks that can rot the very core of the company, Kruzner says.

CIOs are as accountable for making change successful as the CEO or the head of the department where the change is happening, he says. "CIOs are co-owners of change."

To smooth the way, CIOs have to take several steps to make sure colleagues are ready for change. Before any work begins, you should meet with the non-IT peers who are asking for the project and have a brass-tacks talk. Discuss how the company has agreed to spend the money and how everyone's excited about the business case but none of it will materialize until--and this is the brassy part--business leaders commit part of their time, staff and budget to the work. "I've seen CIOs say, 'If I don't have you, I'm not doing it,'" Kruzner says.

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