James Kouris, CIO of private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners in Chicago, is starting up a professional association for IT executives in his industry. The new group, to be called Private Equity CIO, is designed to bring together high-level IT decision-makers in the private equity industry so that they can share best practices and war stories, network with each other, and collectively stay abreast of new technologies and opportunities for buying IT products and services through regular meetings and executive technology briefings with vendors.
Kouris says private equity CIOs need their own peer group that addresses their unique needs and responsibilities. Private equity CIOs specialize in acquisitions and integrating newly acquired companies into their firms’ portfolios. They’re also heavily consumed with applying technology across a broad spectrum of portfolio companies in different industries. Unlike a CIO at a private or public company, who only has to consider how a technology will fit within his or her organization, private equity CIOs have to think about how a technology purchase might work for all of its portfolio companies—not just the firm. Kouris has spent the last 14 years of his career in the private equity industry and has experience working for publicly traded and privately held companies.
Because the private equity industry is all about deal-making, a level of intimacy among these CIOs already exists. Kouris says he and his peers at other private equity firms frequently call each other to discuss sales opportunities and synergies among products, services and technologies their portfolio companies sell or use. The CIO group aims to formalize and expand this circle of colleagues.
For example, the firms in Silicon Valley aren’t shy about calling Kouris to tell him about, say, a router one of their companies makes and to ask him how they might be able to get Madison Dearborn’s portfolio companies to buy it. Kouris makes similar phone calls.
Kouris thinks the technology vendor community could benefit in a similar manner. He says vendors see private equity firms as a one-stop-shop for potential customers. Rather than target portfolio companies individually, vendors want to get inside those companies by going straight to the top—to the CIO of the private equity firm directly. “Because I work with the portfolio companies on their technology, I can give vendors entrée into those accounts,” says Kouris.
The private equity CIOs benefit from the access to the vendor community, too. Because vendors are eager to target private equity firms, the CIOs possess the leverage to get vendors to brief them collectively. “With technology being so dynamic, it’s nice to get a good hold on it [through vendor briefings] and walk down the aisle as a group rather than as an individual,” he says.
IT executives interested in joining Private Equity CIO can contact Kouris at firstname.lastname@example.org. The web site, www.privateequitycio.org, is currently under development.