Mid-Market CIO 100 Companies Create Big Value for Less

Despite their small-scale resources, the Council's mid-market companies used partnerships, incremental investment and client collaboration to develop winning systems.

Robert Urwiler, CIO, Vail Resorts

Make incremental investments

When the fleet of scanners for authenticating daily and seasonal passes at our resorts needed replacement, our IT department took that as an opportunity to rethink the entire function and to look into new technologies. Ultra-high-frequency radio frequency identification (UHF RFID) tagging technology offered many potential advances for us and our customers, such as the ability to unintrusively scan passes as guests board individual lifts. But our innovative proposal for scanning had never before been applied at a ski resort, so full, up front funding for this unproven idea was very unlikely.

To build excitement and credibility, we created an internal proving ground and asked for a relatively small amount of money to bring in vendors for proof-of-concept tests. A small investment was approved for the testing, which limited the risks while allowing the business to understand the technology, giving us room to work. We weren't going in saying we had this great product that would move mountains; we were taking a thoughtful, iterative approach and bringing in users to help us evaluate solutions at very deliberate points when we knew we had something with potential. It wasn't until all of us—IT and the business—were happy, that we asked for the full funding.

Gary Kuyper, CIO, Bethany Christian Services

Be honest with clients

One advantage of being a mid-market company is that Bethany has only a few hundred staff doing the work that our systems support, so IT can get close to our users who, in turn, are incredibly close to our customers. We took full advantage of this proximity when IT drove the creation of our new Adoption Management System, using all of our development experience to put together a stable system that can expand and adapt as families and laws change over the years. At nearly every point in the development process there was input from users and clients about process improvements and new functions that would make our services even better, all of which informed requirements and led to tweaks.

There is always the possibility of too much user input. A close relationship, however, should also allow for honest conversations about feasibility. We haven't been afraid to sit them down and help them understand how their desires will impact the system, project scope, project cost and the mission.

Steven McIntosh, CIO and Senior VP, Jackson Family Enterprises

Tap partners' expertise

The challenge of creating the systems for Vin Lux Fine Wine Transport was starting from a blank page. We had a directive from the top to develop a solution that could take wines from inventory through sales order and out to the customers, but we had nothing to use as a model since manual processes are the norm across the California wine logistics market.

The partnership behind Vin Lux was critical since our company wasn't familiar with all parts of the process. Partnering not only brought together all of that expertise in inventory, warehousing and transport, but also allowed each partner's IT group to focus on enhancing their own piece of the picture. We then augmented our small IT group with a consultant to develop a middleware solution that integrates the pieces and processes.

Our relatively small scale was no advantage in this situation; the complexity of implementing this kind of integrated solution from these separate systems would be the same no matter the size. But having people in place across the partnership who were already familiar with the systems and the business processes made it possible to finish the integration in less than one year.

Urwiler, Kuyper and McIntosh are each members of the CIO Executive Council, a global peer advisory service and professional association of more than 500 CIOs, founded by CIO magazine's publisher. To learn more visit council.cio.com.


This story, "Mid-Market CIO 100 Companies Create Big Value for Less" was originally published by CIO Executive Council.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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