by C.G. Lynch, Kim S. Nash

The 2008 State of the CIO: Six IT Leaders Who Matter

Dec 10, 20076 mins
CareersIT Leadership

Here are six CIOs that excel as leaders in one of three areas: functional, transformational or business strategy.

There isn’t just one way to be a CIO, or one set of CIO concerns.

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Based on answers to questions about priorities, daily activities, accomplishments in the past year and other aspects of the job we’ve classified our respondents as leaders in these areas: functional, transformational or business strategy.

Here are six CIOs that particularly stood out.

Becky Blalock: Transformational CIO

Becky Blalock
Photo By Stan Kaady

Title: SVP and CIO of Southern Co., $14.2 billion electric utility

CV: Five years as CIO of Southern; one year as CIO of Georgia Power division; 29 years at the company

Reports To: President of Shared Services

Projects in Motion: Rolling out new ERP system with IBM and Accenture… Installing new system for automated meter reading… Introduced outsourcing to a sometimes reluctant staff, but making it work.

Blalock Says: To make sure she’s giving Southern its money’s worth, she periodically performs market tests to compare outsourcing prices to see what outsourcers would charge for the same knowledge and services that her in-house people provide. Then she sets up her IT group to beat those prices, which she can do, she says, because unlike an outsourcer, “I don’t have to have a profit built in.”Managing outsourcing, she believes, is a critical skill for CIOs today.

“It’s not just how you deliver technology, but how you manage someone else who’s delivering it. That’s where IT is heading.”

Kevin Bott: Transformational CIO

Kevin Bott
Photo By Andrew Kaufman

Title: SVP, CIO of Ryder System, $6.3 billion global transportation and supply chain solutions company

CV: Two years as CIO; 12 years with company

Reports To: CFO

Projects in Motion: Six months into a three-year plan to update critical logistics systems and processes… Includes replacing transportation operations system and adding telematics devices to entire supply chain solutions fleet… Expanding Ryder’s freight billing app to more customers, enabling them to access data warehouse through a secured website and run reports about their transportation jobs… Adopted a high school in south Florida to talk to kids about IT careers to address looming talent shortage.

Bott Says: Offshore outsourcing is relatively new at Ryder, and Bott has had to help his staff adjust. “We’ve recognized that you can move jobs offshore [and] increase productivity in operations.” Twice a year, he holds webinars for employees worldwide to talk about Ryder’s competitive position and what part IT plays. “I give people as much information as we can.”

Raj Datt: Function Head CIO

Raj Datt
Photo By Alexander Denmarsh

Title: VP and CIO of Kennametal, $2.4 billion supplier of tooling and engineered components

CV: CIO since September 2006; previously VP and CIO for Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of North America

Reports To: CEO

Projects in Motion: To ensure that Kennametal has the tools to meet customer needs in 60 countries, deployed BlackBerry handhelds to sales staff to provide real-time prices, inventory availability and customer order status… To ensure sales and operations are aligned, recently upgraded to a Lotus Quickr and Sametime software suite, allowing for document sharing and collaboration on key projects&. Other critical technologies include ERP system from SAP, real-time application and network monitoring from Indicative, tiered storage from EMC, and J2EE stack for e-business solutioning.

Datt Says: “Kennametal’s IT strategy is guided by our DRIVE methodology: Deliver the Right Information, Value and Excellence.” The framework falls within Kennametal IT’s strategy of leveraging Lean, Six Sigma and CMMi and is quickly becoming a best business practice within Kennametal.

Kurt Hamm: Function Head CIO

Kurt Hamm
Photo By Milton Morris

Title: Director of IT at Time Warner Cable, nation’s second-largest cable operator

CV: 2.5 years as Director of IT; previously, VP of Technical Services for US Xpress, a transportation services company

Reports To: VP of Engineering

Key Projects: Within customer care center, deployed a converged data and voice infrastructure that provides flexibility and reduced costs… Architecture includes a VoIP platform that allows rerouting calls quickly within the center as well as shifting call volume to other centers… To support employees working in technical operations, deployed laptops and handheld devices to provide real-time work scheduling and routing.

Hamm on Vendors: “I look for vendors that demonstrate a willingness to look beyond the current deal on the table. When there’s money on the table or a technical issue to be resolved, it becomes very apparent which vendors are committed to a real partnership.”

Dina Stewart: Function Head CIO

Dina Stewart
Photo By Jason Dailey

Title: Corporate IT Director, DeCrane Aerospace

CV: Two years at DeCrane; previously business system analyst at LSI Logic for six years

Reports To: Vice President and Corporate Controller

Key Technologies: Virtualization has allowed Stewart to eliminate approximately 25 servers out of 95… Recently upgraded a LAN infrastructure to PoE gigabit switches, allowing IT to be “proactive rather than reactive” when it comes to responding to network issues… Also moved to VoIP to connect DeCrane’s 11 facilities, providing better communications and integrating customer service.

Stewart on Vendors: “It’s good when [vendors] involve experts early in the process. I like to work with salespeople who aren’t afraid to bring in systems engineers that are specialists in certain areas.”

Deirdre Woods: Business Strategist CIO

Deirdre Woods
Photo By Dominic Episcopo

Title: Associate Dean and CIO, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

CV: 20 years at Wharton; 3.5 years as CIO; previously senior director in computing group

Reports To: Deputy Dean (senior academic officer) and Senior Associate Dean (senior administrative officer)

Key Effort: Building rich Internet applications to help students practice real-time business scenarios… These simulations mimic real business world scenarios&. “When you make decisions under uncertainty, it helps for real life,” Woods says. After the simulation, professors are given rich data sets with graphics to demonstrate decision complexities.

Woods on Customer Focus: Says to listen to users when devising new applications or systems. With the simulations, her IT team did extensive research with faculty. A student technology board advises her about implementation for student applications. “I always say if you build it, they won’t come. They are the idea authors, and what we do is turn their great ideas into great code.”