The six accomplished IT executives we induct into the 2009 CIO Hall of Fame share more than an impressive history of business and technology achievements. What especially stands out among them is a sense of mission and imagination, coupled with a passion to understand and apply IT wherever it can shrink the distance between people and companies, speed commerce, advance health, improve product safety or create new ways to learn and work and live.
Across the C-suite, there is no position that demands as much invention as that of CIO, says Tony Scott, CIO of Microsoft and one of our honorees. Scott is also the former CIO of The Walt Disney Co. and former CTO of General Motors.
See the complete list of Finalists and Judges here. Check out the 2008 and 2007 honorees.
“We put all the business sensors in place, connecting all the parts. We can see where the friction in a company is. With that,” he says, “is the responsibility to be part of the solution.”
This year’s CIO Hall of Fame inductees join 44 past recipients honored for work that has shaped the business technology landscape, demonstrating both creative vision and practical IT leadership. This year, a panel of 15 former CIO Hall of Fame honorees helped us judge our nominees, naming 13 finalists as well.
While we recognize this year’s inductees for their many outstanding career successes, it is also instructive to consider the collection of experiences—good and bad, happy and not—that got them here. During their careers, our honorees have capitalized on or created the room to build stronger companies. Looking back, they recognize as milestones some events that at the time seemed modest or even took them by surprise. They have developed notions about how to do IT that survive up-and-down economic cycles, management fads and the latest product hype. And now, with a sobering decline in the number of college graduates entering enterprise IT, this year’s Hall of Fame inductees are keen to share ideas for enticing the next generation to take the CIO journey.
CIOs have “broad entry into the entire organization,” says Pat Skarulis, CIO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a
$1.6 billion healthcare powerhouse in New York City. “You have the opportunity to be innovative and work with the most innovative thinkers in your organization—the ones who want to do something differently. You’re always excited by new technologies and new processes. That sense of opportunity is always there.”
Skarulis, 63, doesn’t see what’s so hard about rousing youth to walk to the CIO path. For her, it’s about having a mission. She has served in IT leadership positions at Rush University, Duke University, Rutgers and Princeton University, to name a few. With a 40-year career leading IT in academia and hospitals, she admits that in such settings, “mission” may be a bit easier to identify: educating people, helping patients.
But she believes corporations, too, can generate a sense of mission. “If you’re being measured by Wall Street and your stock is getting creamed, that’s difficult. But if you have a clear goal and set it for your staff, they can go home and celebrate how they’re helping achieve it.”
Career Turning Points
In work as in life (as if the two were truly separate), you make the best possible decisions with the information and skills you have at the time. You spend your career adding to that information as you go: degrees earned, projects managed or mismanaged, uptimes celebrated, downturns weathered. Those experiences all inform your next decision, though sometimes the path isn’t quite so linear.
Bill Deam, CIO of Quintiles Transnational, recounts how disappointments and taking what may seem to be counterintuitive action moved his career forward. Deam, 56, joined the $2.7 billion medical research company in 2005, after holding the CIO post and other IT executive positions at The Nielsen Co., Safeway (in the United Kingdom) and Mars, among others. “I went from very large companies, to smaller and smaller. My rĂŠsumĂŠ is the opposite of what you’d expect of someone becoming more successful with each job change,” he says. “But if you’ve got exciting ideas, you have to find an organization that’s growing and allows you to operate.”
At candymaker Mars, he learned consumer good manufacturing. At Safeway, retailing. At Nielsen, profiting from aggregating massive amounts of data. At Quintiles, it’s all come together, Deam says. The company has launched a program to run the technology platforms for pharmaceutical companies that already outsource their clinical trials to Quintiles. The new business project draws on Deam’s experience in all the industries where he’s served in IT.
But Deam’s career wasn’t without upset. After eight years at Mars, he was looking for a challenge and agreed to set up a new IT group across continental Europe. The 1983 move meant he’d be gone from headquarters, traveling for 18 months, but he’d gain entrepreneurial experience. When he got back, however, he learned that a colleague who’d stuck around got the job Deam wanted and thought he’d win: head of all business systems. “It’s one thing taking a risk but not everybody is impressed by that,” he says ruefully. “I learned that lesson.”
So when a headhunter soon after called him about an opportunity in retail—deputy CIO at Safeway—Deam was ready to listen. “I was 32 years old, so this was a big step up for me,” he says. “It worked out better in the long run as I would have ended up unhappy as a classic Mars lifer.”
Sometimes, it is only with time and distance that one can see the pivotal moments in a career.
That’s how it happened for David Johns, CIO of Owens-Corning, who became one of the first CIOs in the early 1990s to roll out SAP’s enterprise resource planning system globally. He also was an early outsourcer of commodity IT services, such as the help desk. These gutsy moves were part of Owens-Corning’s drive to make its manufacturing processes, top to bottom, more efficient.
“ERP was new and we made lots of mistakes,” says Johns, 50, who has been at the $5.8 billion company since 2001. “Anytime you’re the first, you’re a little on edge about whether it’s the right thing to do and whether we really know what the heck we’re doing.”
Evidently, he did. Johns’ CIO role soon expanded to lead supply chain and now he leads shared services worldwide.
A professional milestone can sneak up on you, too.
For Tony Scott, 47, it was the steps he took to respond to a surprise competitive pressure. While he was CTO at General Motors in 2001, Ford publicized its offer to buy employees’ PCs. Envious GM workers agitated for their company to provide a similar benefit. Scott surveyed a sampling of salaried and unionized employees and figured out that what they really wanted was to get online with the machines they already had. So he negotiated a deal with America Online for Internet service at a cut-rate price of $5 per month for the employee.
Ford’s move had put GM in the hot-seat in a very public way, he recalls, and upped his own visibility. “I went from being a little-known report to the CIO to dealing directly with all the senior executives in the company, and dealing with the press and the United Auto Workers union, a key stakeholder for us.”
Because the situation was reported in the news, Scott, 47, began to get calls from CIOs at other companies, wanting to know how he worked with AOL—particularly how he was dealing with the privacy and data protection issues that arose from giving employees Internet access at home. “It created an opportunity for me to meet a lot of industry luminaries,” he recalls. And now he is one.
More than Technology
IT leadership means knowing your company’s business as well as technology; knowing how to manage, motivate and create conditions for yourself and others to come up with new ideas. For Coca-Cola SVP and CIO Jean-Michel Ares, who recently decided to leave Coca-Cola for personal reasons but plans to remain until a successor is named, that translates into a lot of talking.
The engineer in Ares prompts him to break down IT and business strategies. He says he enjoys “disaggregating” a large, complex operation into its components to discover which parts matter most and where business processes and IT can create the most value. He and other senior executives at Coke agree that the company’s 200 bottlers—some company-owned, others franchised—are key to outrunning competitors such as Pepsi. Getting product efficiently made and moved, at the lowest cost, is vital.
With that in mind, Ares, in 2007, began working with bottling executives on a comprehensive business process and standardized IT platform. Last year, he deployed the “Coke One” model to boost speed to market, share best practices more effectively and drive top-line growth.
“At this point, we have a separate ‘instance’ of SAP for each major bottling operation that leverages a common SAP template,” says Ares, 46, who is in his eighth year at the $32 billion company. He was previously CIO of GE Energy, a subsidiary of General Electric. Before that, he consulted for telecommunications and banking clients at McKinsey & Co.
The sense of mission for Ares relates to defying odds. Consumer technology is so advanced and prevalent, and the pressures inside a corporation so heavy, that the expectation for IT, Ares says, is “to be flawless.” The job of CIO often boils down to measuring and mitigating risk, he adds.
Microsoft’s Scott agrees, saying that notion was burned into his brain as soon as he became CIO of Disney in 2005. A series of major power outages (compounded by some latent problems caused by an earlier lightning strike) uncovered serious issues with backup capabilities.
“It was a series of very unlikely incidents but it gave me and other leaders religion around risk management,” he recalls. Disney’s “infrastructure had been neglected for years before I got there,” he says. He then had to have “a difficult conversation” with top executives about just what their IT priorities were, he says. “Senior executives really began to understand role of IT risk in our business in a way I could never have scripted.”
With the Coke One project, Ares notes, “it was clear from business executives that it’s a risk we’re taking together. It’s not just an IT issue.”
“The biggest career move for me was to start thinking not about technology but about outcomes,” says Asif Ahmad, CIO with Duke University Health System and Medical Center. Ahmad, 42, is also vice president of diagnostic services at the $1.9 billion health care organization, overseeing operations and strategy for radiology and
Ahmad’s educational background has influenced how he approaches IT. He has earned a bachelors degree in electrical engineering with majors in telecommunications and electronics, a masters in biomedical engineering and an MBA. No computer science, however.
From that perch, a project isn’t about installing software by a certain date but about analyzing what must happen to change a process to produce a desired result, he says. The best way to think of technology, he says, is to understand how information gets into a particular piece of software and how it gets out. “Improvements become obvious.”
Skarulis at Sloan-Kettering says a CIO’s job is never done, in part because business problems and technologies are so constantly in motion. That opens a door to addressing the situation again, only better. Several years ago, the hospital put 25 years’ worth of aggregated clinical patient data in a database. Researchers would ask IT for reports generated via complex queries and could often wait two-and-a-half weeks to receive them.
Now, data searching has improved so much that Skarulis and her team gave researchers new tools so they themselves could conduct much more refined queries and produce more complex reports, instantly. “We took a resource we had and applied new technology to it and completely changed the results.” She is proud of using IT to improve research that helps save lives.
As philosophical as they are about how they achieved so much in their careers, our Hall of Fame honorees seem unconcerned about leaving a personal legacy. Rather, they hope to leave behind them a crop of well-trained, well-informed, passionate technology leaders who can further the CIO profession.
Deam for example, is taking star performers from Quintiles’ clinical development areas and handing them a strategic project to lead for two years. They’re fast-tracked into a much bigger role in the company at the end. The idea is to show up-and-comers that IT experience enhances your career.
“I want those people to go back to the business side and people will say, Hmm, I should do an IT gig.” The first person through the program now manages Quintiles’ project management organization in the Asia Pacific region covering all clinical trials for that region. A second person began her stint in March. “She’ll leap two stages in her career after this,” he predicts.
Deam hopes to uncover CIO aspirants. But even if his stars don’t pursue IT itself, he says, they are future managers who will have some comfort with technology and the application of it. “It’s a long-term plan.”
To help those around him, even his potential replacements, reach the next level, Ahmad from Duke University advises: “Take liberties.” He always has. He would present a tech project to senior managers, he recalls of his early years, always making sure to explain how it related to a larger business context. He tells young and middle managers to be accountable for their work but also for improving the company. Taking ownership of projects beyond your job description can advance a budding career, he says. Bosses see that.
“They say, ‘He’s willing to take risks, to work with others in areas where people may not be comfortable with him,'”
Johns at Owens-Corning says he and CIO friends frequently
discuss where they think the CIO profession is heading. IT has been on the forefront of shared services and he thinks the CIO role could expand to oversee all sorts of shared services at global companies, not just those related to technology. The best future CIOs will be smart, critical thinkers. “As global competition increases, as the focus on cost increases, as opportunities for technology to make a difference for a business increase,” he says. “CIOs [will] expand their role. That’s a very exciting career path.”
After his 28 years in IT, Johns has honed his hiring criteria to three: People who get work done, know how to think and can communicate. “The tech side? We’ll teach you that.”
Contact Senior Editor Kim S. Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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