As senior vice president and CTO at Dex One, Atish Banerjea manages not only enterprise IT at the marketing-services firm, but also product development, reflecting a move away from the traditional CTO role. In today’s world, he says, IT organizations must break out of silos and support growth with innovative approaches and emerging technology. Banerjea outlines how he’s building an agile IT team with a digital mind-set.
Since you manage all IT activities at Dex One, why is your title chief technology officer?
Historically, the CTO title often referred to the head of infrastructure. Today, in most organizations with a digital mind-set, CTO denotes head of technology-based product development and emphasizes what a company can do for its customers. I manage both enterprise IT and product development.
In transforming from a traditional-IT enterprise to one with a digital business mind-set, have you created new roles or redefined old ones?
We started by breaking down organization silos where, for example, enterprise IT was separate from product development, or we had silos based on geographies. Next, we flattened the technology structure and promoted leaders with agile and innovative approaches into key positions. They are now proactively launching pilots with emerging technology platforms and new devices, whereas in the past, our culture and structure did not support this.
Where did you identify a skills gap?
We found that we had architects in applications, infrastructure and so forth, but we did not have an architecture group that could look across the organization and define our technology road map to effectively support growth. Another key gap was that we didn’t have an agile approach to technology development. In today’s world, we need to bring new digital products and services to the market quickly, and we needed to be more flexible and nimble in regards to infrastructure, applications and services in support of internal enterprise customers. Also, as a company that could be described as a build shop, we needed to shift our approach and identify partners who could bring platforms and services that could be integrated into our solutions to increase speed to market and reduce costs.
How are you creating a best-in-class team, and what qualifications do you look for when hiring?
First, I look for breadth of experience. That means building a team with a digital business mind-set—it must be part of their DNA. Second, we need people who have worked in heterogeneous environments with multiple platforms, and have the skills to simplify and rationalize our technology environment. Third, they must be able to quickly integrate best-of-breed solutions. This requires good service-oriented architecture skills in addition to deep development skills. Fourth, I’m looking for strong leadership skills so that the next level of our technology organization can be groomed and developed as future leaders. We will continue to develop our internal talent and will also recruit externally for the right IT skills. Finally, in the new digital arena, our technical leaders need the ability to keep an eye on emerging technologies and solutions and quickly figure out how we can apply them to our business.
Have you faced any hiring challenges?
We are now competing against true technology companies. They have much larger product and engineering organizations, so we have to ramp up our recruiting skills to compete. We are not looking at traditional competitors for the type of IT talent that we need to future-proof our business.
Phil Schneidermeyer is a partner in the New York office of Heidrick and Struggles.