by Christian Youngblood

Using technology to lead change at the North Pole

Dec 09, 2015
CIOIT GovernanceIT Leadership

Being selected as the first CIO for Santa's North Pole comes with great opportunity to improve operations while reducing stress. My early observations have focused on security and production resulting in enhancements to both technology and procedures.

Sometimes I wonder if I was the lucky winner or the unfortunate victim that landed this position as the North Pole CIO. All of us face challenges in our jobs and I am no exception as I battle the “old school” mindset of the Elves and a boss that demands change, while also being hesitant to adopt modern technology. Each day brings a new challenge and a new opportunity for problem solving and leadership.

It should come as no surprise to seasoned technology experts that one of the greatest problems with our operation is security. Hackers make the news on a daily basis in which they boast their latest data breach and demand millions of dollars, lest they release sensitive, personal data for countless innocent customers. Our data contains the names, addresses, and gift list for every person celebrating Christmas across the globe and would be very valuable to someone.

We performed a threat assessment to determine who would most likely benefit from hacking our system and found some surprising results. The most common attempts to breach our security measures come from children that have misbehaved throughout the year. Instead of cleaning their room and studying hard to pass Social Studies, they have decided to hack Santa’s list with the goal of moving their name from NAUGHTY to NICE. Please note: anyone caught attempting such an action will automatically be placed on the naughty list for an additional year.

Additional intruders include toy companies that wish to increase the popularity of their product by adding it to the wish list of unsuspecting children. Perhaps this explains why so many of us receive bad gifts? Surprisingly, another common hack actually comes from Elves who modify gifts to those that are more easily manufactured. Making a wooden train is much easier than an iPad.

Why would an Elf resort to crime? They are not known for being evil, so maybe it’s just that they are so overworked and would do anything for a break. The technology staff has implemented some new improvements to ease the production line, including 3D printers that can instantly make copies of just about anything made from plastic and certain other substances. Additionally, Elf life may be simplified by taking advantage of some outsourcing.

Global vendors, such as Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart sell goods on every inhabited continent and are typically well stocked with electronics, clothes, and miscellaneous gifts. Elves will be much more efficient in shopping for gifts rather than making each one. Providing training to each Elf in e-commerce skills will allow the organization to transition into a modern fulfillment center.

Santa will deliver no less than 5-billion packages, about 200 times the amount of UPS on their busiest day. We cannot expect this to be accomplished without some challenges and we recognize that Santa will feel an abundance of anxiety. However, we will use technology to improve reliability, accuracy and efficiency of the entire operation.

On a personal note, I have to say how great it has been to work at the North Pole. Like everyone around here, I have really grown to like Santa and I worry about his health. Stress has always caused him to snack on milk & cookies, which has made the big guy substantially bigger. We have decided to keep him in shape by purchasing a fitness tracker and an electronic calorie calculator. We hope that all this new technology will keep Santa healthy for a long time to come.