by Abbie Lundberg

20 Years of 100: In Search of Business Technology Excellence

Aug 10, 20073 mins
InnovationIT Leadership

Nineteen years ago today, I was putting the final touches on CIO’s first ever CIO 100. That first year, we picked the companies by size and revenue, selecting the top three or four across 33 industries.

We profiled all 100. This provided a broad and comprehensive look at the role of IT in corporate America—which was a useful thing to do in 1988. It also made for a pretty homely magazine: 17 pages, each divided into six squares, tiny black and white photos, mainly of white males, many sporting hilariously oversized glasses.

Things were different then. In our “day in the life” profile of then-TRW CIO Rich Koeller, there are pictures in which you can see ashtrays on the conference room table. In many photos, Koeller has a lit cigar tucked into the corner of his mouth.


CIO 100: IT Innovation

Quiz: Are You Innovative?

100 Innovative Projects

3 Keys to Innovation Success

Make Money, Win Customers

Not surprisingly, IBM dominated the IT infrastructures on that first list, with 72 percent of our 100 relying on Big Blue mainframes and 57 percent using IBM PCs. (Another 31 percent had “IBM compatibles.”) Dell? What was that?

The most prevalent “new” technologies in use were LANs, WANs and EDI. They didn’t know it then, but those early CIOs were in for some disappointments: 30 percent believed that artificial intelligence and expert systems were going to be important.

And only 13 of the 100 CIOs reported to the CEO.

Since then, the CIO 100 has evolved. We haven’t picked companies based on their size for years. It got boring writing about the same companies again and again, and we (and consequently you, our readers) weren’t learning much that was new. So in the early ’90s, we switched to a nomination process based on a theme we felt was important to business that year: customer service, supply chain expertise, innovation, agility and so on.

Today we focus the CIO 100 on significant projects that demonstrate the double virtues of innovation and value to the business. We look at companies large and small in the public, private, nonprofit and government sectors. And we (and consequently you, we hope) learn a lot.

Despite all these shifts, we’ve had a number of persistent winners. FedEx and Wal-Mart have made the list 14 times; Procter & Gamble 13; Intel 12; and Dell and GE 11.

Looking back, and then looking at what today’s honorees have achieved, it’s not hyperbolic to call this year’s group The Transformers. IT and CIOs have come a long way in 20 years. I can’t wait to see what the next 20 brings.

Editor in Chief Abbie Lundberg can be reached at