by Mark Chillingworth

If the CIO 100 were a Tour de France dream team

Jul 04, 20146 mins
CareersConstruction and Engineering IndustryIT Leadership

Fortunately for Online Editor Edward and I cycling is pretty popular amongst the CIO community, which is not surprising given the pressures of being a business technology leader in today’s modern organisation and the occasional need to escape.  Why is it popular? Well in a way cycling appeals to all the characteristics a CIO needs to be an effective business person. Most importantly is the need to be dedicated and focused, whether its Box Hill, the Alps, a time trial or my personal preference mountain biking, riding bikes requires focus; the weather can be unkind, it really does hurt like hell when you come off, you need to study the road/trail ahead of you constantly; you don’t just sit there – body position is critical for every corner, climb or gulley drop.

Probably the most important thing you need in cycling is a sense of team. Whether riding on the road and doing your stint on the front in the wind, mucking in for a trail side repair when a mate has ripped their gears apart on a set of rocks, helping navigating or just plain old rolling with it and supporting the decisions of a fellow rider.

Although one of the oldest and most successful inventions of all time; the bicycle constantly evolves as form of technology. The teams that will line up for the Yorkshire Grand Depart of the Tour de France will all ride carbon fibre bikes. GPS bicycle computers have revolutionised navigation and given every cyclist their own data analytics nirvana as we spend any free time off the bike comparing gradients and cadence on Garmin Connect or Strava, the latter is also a social media tool.

I won’t make you all suffer a blow by blow account of the improvements to tyres, gearing, wheel sizes, frame materials and suspension, a luxury only afforded to my fortunate/suffering wife, but CIOs are always fascinated by the art of the possible that any technology development offers their business; the same is true of the bicycle. Technology keeps enhancing the experience of riding bikes. There are many who get over obsessed with the numbers behind bike geometry, weight or suspension damping rates, personally I like to boil it all down to ‘does this mean I can ride further?’ I have always been impressed with CIOs who see the role as about maximising the use of technology to make the organisation go further, rather than believing a new technology would be differentiation the organisation needs.

I’ve been obsessed with all forms of cycling since I rediscovered the sport in the mid-1990s at university and with some incredibly close friends and my little brother I have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune trapped on Welsh mountains, walking miles with damaged bikes, got hopelessly lost on the Yorkshire Moors and had to abandon mountain ascents in the Lake District due to a spot of rain getting a little more serious! Relationships and equipment too, have been tested to the limit in these scenarios. I’m happy to report all of these relationships remain intact. But for every ride where I or a colleague have suffered from the fickle hand of fate there have been blasts through sun soaked France, dust choking mountain descents, sights of amazing beauty, experiences of the best side of human nature, the weekly return to childhood as you tear off the side of the Downs giggling and moments of natural beauty as you ride with deer, buzzard or chatter like swallows on the wing.

So what would a CIO 100 pro team peloton look like if it were to line up in this year’s Tour de France?

Chris Hewertson #16, the CIO of hotel chain GLH has sprinted into the top 20 with a significant year of transformation to bring GLH back to a competitive level.

Jeremy Vincent #18,CIO of car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover may lead technology at the maker of the bane of every cyclist and is a recent cyclist, but he is a force of nature, full of energy and like the Trek team’s Jens Voigt, always ready to surprise the peloton.

Andrew Jordan #20, along with Hewertson, the NBC Universal CIO, is one to watch in this peloton. In his time at the global broadcasting and entertainment giant he has challenged the organisation to rethink its vendor selection and become highly involved in R&D labs and end user experience. Jordan is also a very serious cyclist with a pedigree on the Tour’s amateur support event.

Mike Sturrock #22, as the Tour races through Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire and the capital Sturrock is sailing towards the North Pole. The adventurous CIO is a keen mountain biker and a strong climber, so will be handy for our team when we hit the mountains. Sturrock has good leadership skills so will make an ideal team captain to ensure the team nets the yellow jersey.

Gideon Kay #37,is in new team having switched from science to the media, but as a keen triathlete and with a heritage of delivering large and complex projects in complicated organisations he’ll be a strong member of the team and could be ideal to send off in a break away to liven up the race.

Sarah Flannigan #41, the National Trust CIO has the ultimate role for training, she leads technology for one of the nation’s largest land owners, which can claim Box Hill, used for the London Olympics road race in its estate. Full of energy and another CIO never afraid to challenge vendor selection ideas she will throw every ounce of energy she has into this team.

Richard Gifford #47,CIO by day and one of the UK’s leading time trial riders with a professional team, the CIO team knows it has the time trial in the bag with Gifford on its team.

Mark Dundon #55,young, bursting with ideas and energy, Dundon will add an element of surprise in our line up, again, another rider we could throw into a break away to really upset the opposition.

Enjoy the Tour de France, there is much we can learn about business, technology and leadership from this three week spectacle.