Create Central Value Out of Many Sources

How three CIO 100 Award-winning CIOs used new technologies, mission needs and partnerships to gain business advantages.

James Armstrong, Missile Defense Agency

Use Mission Needs to Eliminate Barriers

By forming the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the U.S. government consolidated organizations from across the Department of Defense with multiple cultures, processes and technologies. Even once we were together, there were still divisions in the way of collaboration. Just setting up a meeting could take weeks and key participants lacked real-time access to the relevant background information. In an environment where seconds count and the users are often battle commanders, we couldn’t afford stovepipes.

Our collaboration relies heavily on high-definition video—including desktop, mobile and external, all secured—and a network that can support it. Building that high-speed, reliable backbone was particularly important. Everyone in MDA knew the hypothetical advantages to our mission, but we had to prove to them that technology had moved forward enough to meet our needs. We had to overcome users’ past experience with pixilated images, poor audio and dropped calls. When we were ready, we upgraded key conference rooms and installed desktop capability for several top executives, who immediately saw the value and pushed to have it integrated into critical locations. Now we are able to bring together, on short notice, resources and expertise from around the world for missile defense, such as working out the shoot-down of a failed satellite or demonstrating our capabilities to partner nations.

Thomas Flanagan, Amgen

Take Technology out of the Way

As Amgen develops a drug from early research through human testing, our goal within the IS group has been for projects to be limited only by our scientists’ imagination, not the technology they use. When we brought together all the research organizations and labs involved in the RaannddD process, it was clear that to work effectively, they needed a way to electronically exchange information in real time. We also wanted to standardize processes as much as possible while focusing on enabling, not stifling innovation. Our key scientists were therefore involved from the very beginning to ensure the system and process optimized how they work. Compliance was another critical component, and by enforcing common procedures through system prompting and prerequisites, it became far easier to meet regulatory requirements.

Our new clinical laboratory information-management system is a core piece of a companywide effort to make all our processes electronic. One immediate advantage for our labs is the new ability to view clinical data as the research organizations are performing a clinical trial, giving the scientists the chance to make changes in the test as it is happening, rather than after data has been collected. Real-time access to data has also increased the number of samples our partners can analyze daily by 200 percent. In our industry, development of a single drug costs more than a billion dollars and takes nearly 15 years. If we can shave time off testing for a project of that magnitude, the value could be tremendous.

Mujib Lodhi, D.C. Water and Sewer Authority

Provide Value to All Parties

When building a system that relies on information from outside parties, the biggest stumbling block—and opportunity—is clearly communicating how their contribution will bring value to everyone involved, not just you.

We needed to create a new system to more accurately determine which customers should be charged for affecting the environment through runoff or overflows, and then link that to our other systems for integrated billing. To be accurate, the new system required information maintained by other local agencies in the District of Columbia, such as the Department of the Environment, Office of Taxation and Revenue, the Office of the CTO, and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. We went to each with an offer: We would integrate their data requirements into our new system and let them use it, saving them development time and investment funds. There was some concern, including that the offer appeared too good to be true, but we overcame it in large part by making sure to deliver on everything we promised. They were involved in the requirements gathering, the system design and the testing, and the system is now serving all of us.

Armstrong, Flanagan and Lodhi are all members of the CIO Executive Council, a global peer advisory service and professional association of more than 500 CIOs, founded by CIO’s publisher. To learn more, visit


This story, "Create Central Value Out of Many Sources" was originally published by CIO Executive Council.


Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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