by CIO Executive Council

3 CIOs Share Tips for Plotting a Digital Path

May 28, 20144 mins
CIOIT LeadershipIT Strategy

These collaborative IT leaders are guiding their organizations toward a digital business future.

How can you guide your organizations toward a digital business future? Three collaborative CIOs share their strategies for success.

Have a Bias for Action

Eric Singleton, Senior Vice President & CIO, Chico’s FAS: If you come into a new role and say, “I’ve got great ideas for our digital future,” someone will tell you, “That’s great, Eric, but my desktop isn’t working.” When I took over, we addressed technology weak spots as quickly as possible. Then we could move on to the innovative stuff — what to do with IT to leapfrog the competition.

Follow everything from CIO on Twitter @CIOonline.

I developed a digital road map called the “digital retail theater,” a response to the rapidly shifting behavior of our customers — their buying patterns, lifestyle choices and adoption of technology. Combining my research with our customer data, I developed a plan to get in front of those changes and sought input from our leadership team. My bias for action was high, but it was amplified when I met with a brand vice president who said that not only did we need to do this, we needed to do it fast.

We’ve launched our customer book–a cloud-based data stream accessible via secure iPads–in Chico’s and implemented our gesture-activated TechTable in our Boston locations.

Next up are mobile checkout, digital signage and a virtual “client closet.” Today, the digital retail theater is a strategic imperative; it’s even an agenda item in earnings calls. Seeing it embraced–and executed–in such a short time is surreal.

Deliver on Top Business Goals

Doug Porter, enior Vice President of Operations & CIO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association: I collaborate not only with my peers in the association but also with executives from our 37 Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. In the last few years, we’ve increased our focus on using our national data assets to create a seamless transaction flow among all our companies.

The CEOs from our member companies also serve as our board of directors. The board establishes a strategy for our data assets, and we build a development agenda for that strategy. In 2010, for example, there was a lot of interest in healthcare analytics.

We’d amassed a tremendous amount of data about claims, members, providers and pharmacies so that our national accounts could better manage costs and become more effective.

We created one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive healthcare informatics databases and, with the launch of the Blue Health Intelligence company, our member companies can now deliver advanced analytics down to the ZIP code and put that information into the hands of their customers.

We’re looking at delivering more of that kind of intelligence to our national accounts and to our individual customers via their channel of choice–whether it’s the Internet or a smartphone.

Collaborate Widely to Set Priorities

Bill McArthur, CIO, Scientific Games: Scientific Games provides products and services for the lottery and gaming industry, including instant lottery games and the point-of-sale systems, networks and data centers that support them. Since our recent $1.5 billion acquisition of WMS Industries, we now also develop and manufacture slot machines and provider-related services.

We’ve established three operating groups — lottery, gaming and interactive — and there are tremendous new technology opportunities for each unit, such as transforming our physical products into digital entertainment experiences.

The pace of change is breakneck, and keeping up requires several business areas — including the CTO, the software development group and each business-unit CEO — to collaborate to set priorities for new product development and business systems. The recent acquisition requires enormous focus on integration, and if we had the luxury of time, we’d do that and nothing else. But we’re a technology company; we have to look ahead.

We’d like to throw new ideas out there and iterate development until we got them right, but because we operate in a well-regulated industry, everything we do has to be thoroughly tested and approved before we go to market. We do this by developing our products, technology, research and marketing programs in innovative ways that combine our customer focus with results-oriented solutions.

Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.