How IT Helped Shape UL's New Business Strategy

Underwriters Laboratories' CIO Christian Anschuetz discusses UL's recent transformation from a non-profit to a for-profit organization and how IT shaped and supported that change. He weighs in on the consumerization of IT, offers advice for CIOs, explains why 'big data' without 'big discretion' will lead to 'big failure,' and more.

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Lots of people make New Year's resolutions, using the turning of a calendar page as a spur to change. But for Underwriters Laboratories' CIO Christian Anschuetz, January 1 marked the beginning of a profound transformation -- one that he and his team have helped envision and enable. As the ball dropped in Times Square to mark the start of 2012, UL -- the product testing and certification company that has been ensuring safe products for over a century -- transformed from a non-profit organization to a for-profit company in the U.S., with a focus on delivering new products and services to its global customer base. In this first installment of the IDG Enterprise CIO Interview Series, Anschuetz spoke with IDGE Chief Content Officer John Gallant about IT's role in shaping and supporting this business change and what it means for him and his organization. Anschuetz, who worked for years in the advertising industry, described why embracing consumer technology is critical to 'amplify human ability' and how IT should be measured for its success in driving customer value and revenue. He explained why he holds up Amazon.com as UL's 'metaphorical competitor' and why 'big data' without 'big discretion' will lead to 'big failure'.

Tech Titans Talk: The IDG Enterprise Interview Series

Anschuetz, who's a member of the CIO Executive Council -- IDGE's peer-based global community of leading CIOs (click here to learn more) -- also talked about why he believes there's never been a better time to be a CIO and offered advice for emerging IT leaders eyeing the CIO office.

Q. You worked previously in the advertising business, which is a pretty far cry from the business that you're in today. What attracted you to this role with UL?

A: There were three primary drivers that made me want to join this firm. You are absolutely correct that UL is 180 degrees out from advertising. Advertising is about, in many ways, driving conspicuous consumption. UL's mission, however, is about humanity. UL's mission is about making the world a safer and more sustainable place. After having worked in advertising for a decade, I wanted to work for a firm that had a mission I could believe in and truly throw myself behind. That was factor number one. Factor number two was that the company was poised to go through major changes in the interpretation of its mission. The world has changed, and UL was responding by taking a broader, more holistic interpretation of its mission. This would result in significant transformation and being part of those important changes was very, very intriguing to me. Certainly I knew such fundamental change would be a challenge, as such changes are to all organizations, but the challenge itself was appealing. And then the third reason is, quite frankly, that UL's CEO is a visionary. He sees and understands that technology is not a means to its own end, but rather has the ability to change companies and industries. The intersection of these three factors made coming to UL the perfect opportunity for me.

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