What are the top priorities for CIOs and other IT leaders for the new year? Thirty weigh in and share their strategic plans.
By Dan Muse
The year is well under way, but it’s never too late to talk strategy. To gauge what lies ahead for 2017, we teamed with the CIO Executive Council to ask IT leaders about their focus for the year. Normally for Quick Takes we ask only a handful of executives to weigh in on a topic, but this time we wanted to get a deeper and wider set of answers to this question: “What is your strategic focus for 2017?”
You didn’t disappoint. The 30 responses — which come from a range of industries and academia — cover a lot of ground. Because this installment clocks in at more than 5,000 words, I’ll spare you my analysis and we’ll get right to IT leaders — who we list in no particular order — so you can see how your focus compares.
Lee Cappola, vice president of Information technology, IWP
Like many other IT organizations, at IWP we are constantly challenged to meet increasing demands and changing priorities, particularly in the private equity SMB space where there’s regular involvement by the board with a focus on EBITA. With only so much IT capacity, the IT strategy for 2017 is two-fold. On one hand we are aggressively deploying cloud and hosted applications while on the other hand we’re breaking industry norms and investing in on-premises infrastructure. Why take this approach? For commodity systems, off premise solutions achieve predictable cost, rapid time to deploy and high availability. Yet our proprietary systems, which are fully virtualized, perform exceptionally well in a localized data center which assures high performance and stability while localizing many of our critical dependencies on third party partners. This Jekyll & Hyde strategy will enable the IT team more capacity to respond to prioritized business demands.
Michael Hites, senior Associate vice president for administrative IT services and CIO, University of Illinois System
We use an early 2000’s vintage ERP, and we are an institution where business process and data custodianship is determined on a department-by-department basis. Yes, we have mobile applications, web portals, and first-rate integration between applications. We don’t have students that say, “Alexa, register me for Computer Science 125.” I also can’t say “Alexa, stop” in meetings where everyone instantly becomes quiet and is never offended, but that’s beside the point. Our challenge is to re-focus our business practices around our students so that admissions, registration, advising, housing, concert tickets, extracurricular activities, parking, and career searching are not only blissfully intuitive, but integrated in a way where you don’t need to know what a bursar is. I want my daughter to spend no more than a few sentences with Watson to apply for college and get her scholarships, then four years later, I want to hear “Alexa, get a me job starting June 1, 2022.”
Renee Zaugg, vice president, infrastructure and development services, Aetna
Our 2017 Infrastructure and Application Development strategy has many dimensions as we continue to accelerate our digital capabilities to provide advanced simple solutions to our members.
This will be done by the following:
1. Enabling our digital transformation strategy to support changes in healthcare and a shift in the way technology products are developed and delivered. This will be done by expanding DevOps for rapid deployment.
2. Adapting smart computing principles; allowing systems to be self-configuring, self-healing, self-optimizing, and self-protecting, enabling end user access to data using cloud and self-service.
3. Extending our data lake by leveraging an advanced hardware/software deployment model, and creating a connecting data-rich platform for customer driven solutions.
4. Last, but not least, protecting the integrity of our business by advancing our machine learning and security vulnerability programs.
Ron Guerrier, CIO Farmers Insurance Group
There are three themes in 2017 that I’d like to incorporate into the everyday vocabulary.
Momentum. My goal in 2017 is to accelerate the positive momentum we achieved in 2016. Last year, we advanced our capabilities to deliver products faster, we strategically calculated possibilities to better the organization, and helped establish a new tone that IT at Farmers can be a collaborative, fun, and professional environment in which to work. Not only do I want to build upon this momentum in 2017, I want to increase it twofold.
Efficiency. A new year brings many opportunities to increase efficiency as a whole. The Japanese business philosophy of “Kaizen,” defined as the continuous improvement of working practices and personal efficiency, is an assertive approach that I’d like for my team to utilize in the New Year and into the future.
Simplicity. It’s critical that our deliverables become second nature and easy to use by Farmers agents, employees, and most importantly, our customers.
Steve Palmucci , senior vice president and CIO, TiVo
My strategic focus for 2017 was largely set in September of 2016 when Rovi completed its acquisition of TiVo and the combined company adopted the iconic TiVo brand. Since then, in partnership with our internal stakeholders, we have been working incredibly hard on planning and executing integration activities in support of TiVo’s business objectives. Clearly, this will continue to be our primary strategic focus in 2017. By the end of this year, we will have completed the integration of the majority of our core business systems, and consolidated or integrated a significant portion of our IT infrastructure and processes.
Our strategic focus extends beyond the integration of IT systems. As two industry visionaries in media entertainment continue to converge into one company in 2017, it is critically important that IT align tightly with our product engineering teams. They will rely heavily on services provided by IT as they work to harness the power of TiVo’s unified product and innovation portfolios to create the ultimate entertainment experience for consumers across the globe.
Albert Ma, CIO and vice president, Toyota Financial Services
In 2017, Toyota Financial Services will relocate to our new North American headquarters in Texas. This is much larger than simply a physical move. Toyota is bringing together its affiliates to improve our ability to work together, enabling us to deliver more value to our customers and dealer partners. By enhancing our collaboration internally, Toyota will provide a seamless, transparent experience that goes beyond multiple touchpoints to create a more cohesive customer-chosen journey.
To support this, we in IT will focus on understanding what outcomes our customers are looking for. Toyota deeply values “genchi genbutsu” which fundamentally means that you must go and actually see a situation yourself to truly understand it. We then need to deliver digital platforms in partnership with our business units that are easily adaptable to the diverse and changing needs of our customers.
Bharat Amin, vice president and CIO, Newport News Shipbuilding
Digital Transformation through disruption is underway in our Shipyard with many pilots related to this effort successfully completed in 2016. It is key that this disruption continue in 2017 at even a faster pace. I foresee our company participating in crafting and joining the Digital Ecosystem to generate value for the entire industry. We will disrupt but without defiance, remaining equally focused on protecting and safeguarding our customer’s information. The top Priority being DFARS compliant by the end of 2017 with implementation of Two Factor Authentication and Windows 10. Our transformation journey includes strong focus on Industrial IoT, Augmented Reality (AR) and Modelling/Simulation pilots with each playing key roles in our Integrated Digital Shipbuilding Program(iDS). We will implement HR self-services (myHR) in the Cloud in 2017 for our workforce. Very important to our 2017 goals is a strong focus on IT talent attraction/retention and development. My ultimate goal is to win this game before it starts. We hope to make 2016 jealous of 2017 as the year of “Differentiating Force” for change.
Bill Thirsk, vice president of information technology / CIO, Marist College
Our focus for 2017 is innovation and optimization through insight. Marist College can now predict whether a student is likely to get a “C” or better in a course only three weeks into the class. Our efforts this year will continue to target new specific active data elements that predictively indicate what might happen next so students may optimize their rate of success, lower their cost of attendance, and speed up their time to graduation. On the managerial side of our enterprise, our efforts will be directed at unbundling traditional monolithic systems, advancing the science and deployment of new cybersecurity technologies, and further developing our open source and shared services models.
By zeroing in on information of consequence, leveraging it to better prepare students for their careers, and utilizing advanced open technologies, we intend to stay ahead of the disruption our industry is now experiencing.
David Tennenhouse, chief research officer, VMware
As we enter 2017, our research team has begun working on “Cloud for the 99 percent”. Our motivation is that well over 99 percent of our customers have very different requirements than mega-scale cloud operators, e.g., Google and Facebook. The 99 percent have a wider range of problems to solve; they don’t have access to armies of wizards; and their problems can be addressed with hundreds of servers (vs. hundreds of thousands).
Since environments pioneered by the 1 percent don’t match the needs of most enterprises, VMware can help by focusing on the needs of the 99 percent. For example, since the anonymity and proof-of-work attributes of Bitcoin’s blockchain aren’t suited to the most promising financial applications, we are working on an alternative. In another space, big data, a key gap is in tools that help analysts explore datasets and formulate the problem to be solved (by machine learning). We are also searching for “Enterprise-grade” AI whose results are more “explainable” than today’s deep neural nets. Finally, instead of extreme scale-out computing, the 99 percent may be better served by combining the “right” degree of scale-out with novel memory-intensive technologies (NUMA, RDMA, NV-DIMM, etc.). To sum it up, the 99 percent are a strategic focus for my team in 2017.
Dick Daniels, CIO, Kaiser Permanente
With technology so pervasive and core to the quality, accessibility, and advancement of health care, we have a great many opportunities. The primary focus for Kaiser Permanente IT in 2017 is to continue innovating and delivering technology solutions that personalize and empower the consumer experience, and that continue to help our care teams to speed up and improve treatment.
For example, we will continue to build on and expand our new member-centric medical office model (which we began to implement in 2016) to more sites this year. These offices integrate technology to create an intuitive, convenient, personalized experience for our members. Consumer-friendly features include: express check in via a remote device or an on-site kiosk, an interactive monitor in the exam room that displays pertinent information and enables real-time video consultation with a specialist, and a text alert when a patient’s prescription is ready at the on-site pharmacy.
We will also continue to add features to our Web and mobile capabilities that make it even easier for members to access services and care teams, and manage their own health. Another focus: is to continue to deliver advanced clinical technologies and remote monitoring capabilities that further improve diagnosis and treatment.
Joel Jacobs, vice president and CIO, The MITRE Corporation
For me, a strategic focus area in 2017 is Anticipatory Knowledge Delivery. MITRE, as a knowledge-driven enterprise operating in the public interest, must deliver its knowledge and expertise across diverse mission domains in a rapidly changing environment. We are constantly looking to shift the delivery of actionable information to the left in decision makers’ timelines and processes.
Applying predictive analytics to identify actionable information, leading indicators, thresholds, insights and process optimizations to the volumes of both internal and external structured and unstructured data and events will be an increasingly critical enabler to achieve our desired outcomes.
Our goal is faster, better decisions both in support of our sponsors’ missions as well as our own business decisions. The anticipatory delivery of actionable information and knowledge — ideally before decision makers even realize they need it—will have significant impact.
KentMills, CIO, Wakefield Canada
Our strategic focus of our Business Technology team at Wakefield/Castrol in 2017 is simple: apply the best technologies and innovation to the goals of our integrated business.
On the Marketing and Sales fronts, it’s all about empowering our salespeople. In a competitive market, we need better business insights and seamless communication via all customer touchpoints leveraging all the tools available: social media lead generation, CRM, and powerful mobile platforms to maximum success for our road warriors.
In Supply Chain, we’re driving down distribution costs dramatically with an IOT play involving remote customer tank monitoring via the cloud. We’re creating market advantage via automated order flow-through and optimized distribution with big data, ensuring right product / right place / right time.
Last but not least, we’re keeping a close eye on disruptive technologies and trends in the automotive industry to identify growth opportunities – there’s a sea change happening and we need to be on the right side of the tide.
Kristin Darby, CIO, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Technology Solution Center
This year’s IT focus at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is on enabling the organizational strategy, which will reflect our critical IT, business and clinical alignment. Due to robust changes in the healthcare environment, the overall design of systems and the organizational approach to data capture must evolve to enable the organization to best express the value we deliver to patients. We will comprehensively re-design our technology portfolio, including the EHR and ERP, to ensure the solutions being implemented will drive enterprise process optimization and maximize the value the technology is enabling through automation, process efficiency and insight-driven analytics.
In the area of cancer, the convergence of genomic advancements, clinical research and technology is emerging as a rapid way to create real life impact for patients whose future could be measured in days or weeks. The commitment of CTCA to provide all appropriate and available options to patients requires that we continue to transform our technology platform around the quickly evolving areas of precision medicine. A solid technology foundation is critical to enabling these more advanced and transformational technical capabilities.
Matt Ode, CIO/senior vice president, Thrifty White Pharmacy
Thrifty White continues to lead the pharmacy industry as evidenced by being named 2016 Drug Store News Pharmacy Innovator of the Year. 2017 promises to be another busy year as we continue to grow our Specialty Pharmacy business segment as well as our Long-Term Care, Retail, and Affiliated Pharmacy programs.
What does this mean from an IT Standpoint?
It means providing all the different business segments real-time data and applications (both internal and external) to make the most accurate and up-to-date business decisions for our employee owners (Thrifty White is 100 percent owned by our employees). Also, being laser focused as an executive team by selecting the most valuable projects from an ROI standpoint independent of what area of the company they are being requested from.
For 2017, this includes further automation and streamlining of current central site dispensing facilities as well as additional workflow efficiencies for our stores to spend more time directly with our patients. Lastly, continuing to evaluate, implement, and enhance more effective social, analytical, mobile, digital, and cloud solutions to grow our business. In the background of all of this success but crucial to note is all of the infrastructure and security related items taking place that can never be overlooked.
Melanie Kalmar, vice president & CIO, Dow Chemical
This is a transformational time at Dow as we grow our digital capabilities to become even more agile, innovative and responsive to the needs of our people, our customers and the industry. My team is focused on driving IT changes that help create value and fuel market-driven thinking by improving decision making and productivity for everyone and efficient growth for the company and our customers. We’re in the best position to do that, given we interact with every Dow employee and department around the globe.
In the year ahead, there are several priorities. We’re advancing our use of real-time and data-driven decision making. We’re accelerating the use of more mobile workforce tools and making it easier for customers and colleagues to collaborate. And as we create these new operational efficiencies, we’re staying focused on our priority to make sure we have the most current cybersecurity safeguards in place.
Mihai Strusievici, director, IT, North America, Colliers International
Our strategic focus of 2017 will be on continuing the radical, long-term transformation of our information systems in the context of a general digital transformation strategy. We will have to address simultaneously the expectations for a modern user experience and the increased needs for advance cybersecurity measures, while still allow for exploration of new technologies.
Our focus will change from application centric to ecosystems of applications, designed with a security mindset and incorporating intelligent user and systems analytics. As data will form the connective fabric of these ecosystems, we will explore new ways to extract competitive advantage from the use of advanced data science supported by new capabilities of machine learning and AI.
Finally yet importantly, we will have to develop an evaluation framework for the extremely fast changing environment, which will allow us to differentiate quickly between technology fads, fashion or real disruptive trends.
Pradip Sitaram, senior vice president, CIO, Enterprise Community Partners
For over 30 years, Enterprise Community Partners has improved communities by helping Americans live in well-designed homes made affordable. Our challenge is significant: Today, 19 million families pay over half their income for housing and are disconnected from good schools, jobs, transit and health-care.
Digital and physical worlds have merged. Geographical boundaries have disappeared. Data delivers insights like never before – and people have unimaginable computing power in the palm of their hands. Technology will transform our interaction with constituents and exponentially increase our impact.
Our multi-dimensional digital transformation strategy leverages Cloud, Mobile, and Social technologies to create one customer-centric platform, allowing our staff to work from anywhere, at any time, on any device. Our strategy strengthens our ability to assess neighborhood conditions and share our nationwide know-how. We’re targeting our investments more effectively and providing needed policy leadership. And with the click of new mobile apps, families will gain unprecedented access to vital opportunities.
Randall Gaboriault, senior vice president, Innovation and Strategic Development; CIO, Christiana Care Health System
My strategic focus starts with my hypothesis that anything that can be packaged and delivered over a network will be packaged and delivered over a network. We have already made this transition in much of our everyday lives. I’m applying this same innovation to make healthcare dramatically better. I have three priorities, First, digital is transforming the processes and venues of care, from the physical to the digital space. Your future healthcare will be much more connected and at the same time almost all of your interaction will take place outside the four walls of a doctor’s office. Priority two is moving from data producer to data consumer. Doctors have always initiated the creation of your official health data, inside clinical settings, think lab tests & exams. Persistently connected, streaming devices will force an information logistics reversal. The first two priorities lead to the third: pioneering new organizational capabilities, many of which do not yet exist. As of result, I’m developing new innovation competencies to rapidly accelerate experimentation, get validated results quickly, and scale what works.
Reed Sheard, vice president for college advancement, CIO, Westmont College
I am excited that strategies, partnerships and investments we have made in the past have positioned us to have a real opportunity to thrive during these uncertain times in higher education. My strategic focus for 2017 is threefold:
Instead of new go deeper. Westmont has made significant investments early in the cloud space and we have tried to be a leader among liberal arts colleges. Cloud computing has matured significantly since 2009 and therefore we can finally stop charting new territories. 2017 will be about strategically leveraging these key investments to benefit the mission of our college.
Truly invest in the key people that make the magic happen. Our ability to creatively respond to the changes, challenges and opportunities occurring in higher education will require capable and committed people. Great colleagues who can get the job done and are a joy to work with are hard to find and vitally important to keep.
Keep learning and stay strategic. My job as a CIO is certainly more complicated but it is also more interesting. However, I too often I find myself mired in a myriad of detail that make it easy to lose focus on the horizon of where we are going as a school. Tremendous advances are occurring across the tech sector and the ability to learn and apply relevant technology to the needs of my institution is a central responsibility I accepted when I became the CIO.
William Retana, senior director of Information Technology, William Retana, LPGA
The LPGA IT&S strategic direction for 2017 is insuring alignment and execution of our BIG data analytics at all levels.
We are focused in transforming our statistical data from 1950 to today into stories driving the next era of golf real-time mass data analytics spanning the business enterprise and our digital ecosystems thus providing the ultimate customer media experience at unprecedented speeds.
Said Taiym, vice president and CIO, AF Group, Insurance Solutions Provider
Simply put, at AF Group our business strategic focus and our IT strategic focus are one in the same. Gone are the days where IT is responding to what technology the business wants but instead we jointly discuss what capabilities our organization needs to enable our strategies.
In 2017 my CIO strategic focus will be to create an enterprise (not IT) operating model that will take our 100 year old company, and all the legacy weight that comes with it, and begin making it perform like we are a start-up. Whether we are working to enable, transform, innovate or protect, my CIO focus will be to provide an experience for our customer that says “This is where I want to do business.”
A key driver with implementing this new operating model is that it isn’t once and done. It must have the ability to evolve to continually increase the velocity at which we can implement the steady and predictable and the uncertain and agile.
Clark Golestani, president, Emerging Businesses and Global CIO, Merck
My strategic focus for 2017 is to deliver even more value to our business through IT capabilities and our portfolio of digitally-based companies.
At the foundation, the “table stakes” are becoming harder and harder to achieve in our industry. The number of digital programs inside our company continues to grow – and the more integrated and global they become, the more challenging it is to manage the integrity of our operational architecture. So we are constantly looking for new mechanisms to deliver uncommon productivity in an environment where change is the new normal.
At the same time, I want to drive more synergies with our emerging businesses, and look for additional opportunities where they can impact the core of our company. Not only are there areas to cross-leverage solutions, human capital, and knowledge with them, but they provide an excellent opportunity for us to prove-in technological innovations more efficiently.
Derek R Plunkett, AVP, Application Development, John Hancock Retirement Plan Services
At John Hancock Retirement Plan Services our objective is to deliver solutions that help our participants achieve financial security. In 2017 we will continue our focus on evolving our digital platform, providing more personally relevant advice and tools to our participants. We aim to meet participants on their terms, whether that’s via our mobile app, our website or while speaking with one of our customer service representatives. For example, individuals who interact with us on our website see a prominent feature called My Best Next Step. My Best Next Step is an algorithm based tool that leverages our expansive data platform to provide simple and personally relevant recommendations to positively impact an individual’s retirement strategy.
Additionally, we know how we develop and build our solutions is equally as important as the technology and software it is built on. By continuing with our Agile and DevOps transformation, we will keep up with the competitive landscape, current regulatory environment and level of technology innovation without compromising quality. Being able to work hand in hand with our business partners to rapidly take a concept from ideation to implementation is critical to our continued success.
James Swanson, CIO, Monsanto
Our IT strategy is clear and simple: connection. In 2017, we’re working hard to create — and connect — a whole new digital experience for our farmer-customers. We will do this by building the data platforms and capabilities that enable each aspect of our business to better serve growers.
This means leveraging cloud computing and Internet of Things to improve data access and decision making across Monsanto’s research pipeline. It means creating data sets and connected analytical models that give us new insights to deliver better products. And, more and more, it means connecting our employees to growers through seamless digital transactions.
We’re doing all of this by building our IT talent and digital mastery. We’re connecting our teams across the organization like never before, as we foster a culture of collaboration, agility and innovation to deliver truly transformative solutions.
John Lutz, vice chancellor for information technology, Vanderbilt University
Our strategic focus in 2017 will be centered on three major areas:
1) Separation of Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center – This key transition consumes a significant amount of our energy and brainpower as we continue to detangle the infrastructure, applications, and services currently shared by the university and medical center. Our work includes proper alignment of applications within our data centers, separation of voice and data networks, implementation of a new ERP for the university, and deployment of a new medical center collaboration and communication system.
2) Alignment with Line of Business Priorities – We continue to deepen our level of alignment and integration with our business partners and the initiatives supporting the university’s academic strategic plan. Key areas include undergraduate residential experience, trans-institutional programs, educational technologies, and health care solutions.
3) The Business of IT – Within VUIT, we are focusing on people and processes. On the former, we are assuring that our skills are more market-relevant and distinctive. On the latter, we are improving our process discipline and driving a better fit to our business partners.
Mark Weatherbee, vice president Information Technology, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England
The mission of our IT department is to align Goodwill’s technology with the goals of the organization’s Strategic Plan and the needs of the organization. Our strategic focus for 2017 is to fully implement a business partner role in all our business units.
IT’s role in the organization has evolved from simply servicing operations to increased focus on and collaboration with all areas of the organization. For example, our IT supports retail stores and warehouses, many types of healthcare programs, and workforce services as well as operations. Each area has its own unique problems and needs. IT will embed specialists in each area to focus on technology solutions for those problems and needs.
We started phasing in this model last year, and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. It has truly been a “win” for all involved.
Matt Lasmanis, vice president and CIO at GSK U.S.
This year, we are splitting our focus between external innovations and internal operations. Externally, we are looking to continue to grow in emergent areas like digital, omnichannel, and customer experience. Internally, we will continue to focus on the core internal operations, such as ERP and infrastructure.
Our goal for 2017 is to ensure that we continue to keep the right balance between the two, investing in emerging innovation, while continuing to safeguard our core operations.
Peter Krockta, AVP IT operations, John Hancock
For us the focus in 2017 and beyond will be in three areas; agility, stability, and innovation. You’re right, that’s a lot to tackle but I think there are three factors that can increase the odds of success; 1) unquestioned commitment from the C-Suite, 2) middle managers who “embrace the change”, and 3) a boots-on-the-ground work force who are intellectually curious and comfortable with ambiguity. Let me provide some detail on what we’re doing in each of these areas.
Agility: We’ve made commitments in accelerating to the Cloud, investing in our DevOps toolsets, expanding our Agile development practices, and most importantly, streamlining our processes.
Stability: The measures we’re taking in this space include application rationalization, technology currency, and development lifecycle improvements to strengthen our risk posture.
Innovation: High employee engagement is a significant factor in helping to establish a culture of innovation and that’s where we’re putting our energy.
We’ve already logged several wins in each of these areas and the resulting business value has served to bolster ITs credibility as a partner and trusted advisor to the business rather than an impediment to growth. The forecast for 2017 is exciting.
Phil Stevens, CIO, Army & Air Force Exchange Service
By building on a strong omnichannel foundation, the Exchange in 2017 will rapidly transform both the in-store and online customer experience to drive continued improvement in relevance, convenience and value.
In the store, we are deploying a modern, omnichannel-enabled POS as well as mobile solutions for both shoppers and associates. We will expand ship-from-store locations around the world and modernize the global ecommerce fulfillment platform.
The Exchange is also adopting a mobile-first strategy while significantly increasing ecommerce capacity to support rapid growth. We are building a customer information hub with deep analytic capabilities to ensure we continue to provide a relevant and consistent shopping experience. Most important, we are integrating our digital infrastructure to ensure common, real-time product and inventory data at every touchpoint so Soldiers, Airmen and their families can find what they want with fast, flexible fulfillment options.
As innovation in technology emerges almost daily, the speed in which we need to adapt accelerates along with it. A large part of my job is not only staying on top of these changes, both within and outside of my industry, but in thinking outside of the box about ways to leverage these innovations and new technologies in my organization.
Can an advance in data analytics help identify better ways of doing business? Or can a new way of using robotics in the healthcare field be applied to the financial services industry?
In 2017, I want to ensure that we continue doing what we do well, but I also want to incorporate innovation across processes and thoughts that are becoming business as usual. From Blockchain to the API Economy, there are many disruptive and emerging technologies that will redefine the future of the financial services industry.