by CIO Staff

INTRODUCTION – The CIO 20/20 Vision Awards

Oct 01, 20025 mins

Few question the transformational power of information technology, even during rough economic times. But there are people behind these transformations?innovative leaders with the vision to see where IT can make a difference and the will and focus to drive it there.

The CIO 20/20 Vision Awards honor outstanding individuals in two categories: 20 creators and marketers of technology; and 20 practitioners who use IT to make great things happen. In the first category, we have chosen scientists, inventors and vendor executives who have developed and evangelized the technology that has become so central to business today. In the second group are CIOs and other practitioner executives who have creatively, and with great foresight, utilized that technology to transform their organization and, in many cases, their industry.

This is not a popularity contest. For instance, while some high-tech leaders are revered for their brilliant inventiveness (such as Tim Berners-Lee, the architect of the World Wide Web) others (such as Bill Gates) have left disgruntled users, bitter competitors and other detractors in the wake of their drive to build software empires around their vision.

But in their own way, all 40 have had a profound impact on their organization, on business and on their industry. They share essential characteristics, such as the imagination to think big, the passion to go after what they want, the ability to take risks and the persistence to push for results.

20 Who Made It Possible

Our list of technology developers includes not only the scientists who were able to act on their technology vision by promulgating standards and revolutionary tools but also a group of vendors who were able to build markets and deliver the tools to the masses. So we have Ray Kurzweil, a futurist and inventor who, with single-minded focus, created various artificial intelligence technologies, including speech recognition software used by doctors to dictate medical reports into a computer. Showing his range of vision, Kurzweil is currently at work on a book about reversing the aging process. Kurzweil maintains that progress is ever accelerating and by using mathematical models that factor in the exponential technology growth rate, he says that the next 20 years will yield as much progress as did the entire 20th century.

Also in this category is Berners-Lee, whose passion for the free exchange of information has been focused on the creation of Web standards, including HTML and XML. Today he continues to work diligently to keep technology specifications open and free in a business climate, he says, in which companies are building “nuclear stockpiles of patents.”

We also have honorees whose determination and marketing genius led to the adoption of several technologies we take for granted today. Tom Siebel of CRM giant Siebel Systems, is the epitome of this.

Given the competitive ambitions of some of our honorees, it’s not surprising that several sit uneasily side by side on our list. Hasso Plattner, who cofounded SAP after his IBM employers wouldn’t support his idea for financial software that did calculations in real-time, is antagonistic toward Larry Ellison, the master marketer behind Oracle. And, of course, there are the legendary rivalries between Ellison and Gates, and Gates and Scott McNealy.

20 Who Made It Happen

For all their vision, ambition and bombast, these giant market and technology builders would be nowhere without the practitioner leaders. Some of our honorees have used technology to bring about wholesale change in their industry. Hal Rosenbluth, CEO of Rosenbluth International, has used technology to simplify the complex interrelationships in the travel business, thereby guiding his company to its current status as a world champion in corporate travel management and forcing rivals to follow in his footsteps.

Taking risks?knowing when to be leading edge or even bleeding edge with technology?is another key trait for the honorees in the practitioner category. David Kepler, corporate vice president and CIO at Dow Chemical, has deftly shepherded Dow’s pioneering investment in a B2B electronic marketplace. Dow was also one of the first companies to successfully implement an ERP system. Another winning trait is being able to see clearly what is hiding in plain view. John Boushy, CIO and senior vice president of operations, products and services of Harrah’s Entertainment, saw a way to use CRM technology to help expand his enterprise. This at a time when competitor casinos were betting on flashy performances and amusement parks.

Finally, our practitioner honorees all have mastered the ability to lead, which they embed throughout their organization. “When you reach a certain level of management, your effectiveness can be measured on how well you spread and share your abilities with multiple people. You have to be able to educate others and disseminate best practices, both within and outside of your organization,” says H. Stephen Lieber, president of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, who served on the CIO 20/20 Vision Awards expert panel. One such example is UPS CIO Ken Lacy, who sees one of his main roles as building a team of high achievers who feel accountable and enabled to do their best. Dawn Meyerriecks, CTO for the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency, knew that her goal of having empowered employees had been reached when, right after Sept. 11, she called her staff upon finding herself stranded out of town and was told that she should concentrate on just getting home; her colleagues were taking care of business.

All of our honorees have the ability to dream?but to also dig deep to find the ability to follow through. Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, says that an IT visionary “needs to be looking over the horizon?but he has to be pragmatic. It’s taking the technological tools that are out there and trying to apply them most effectively to real-world experiences.”

Read on to find out how the CIO 20/20 Vision Awards honorees have managed to strike the balance between thinking big and delivering on their vision.