When Bill Wray was CIO of Citizens Bank, he and his team were managing a number of integrations with the mandate to make significant cuts to the budget. “This was way beyond the typical 5 percent, and I didn’t know how to do it,” he says. “So this guy I know said, ‘There’s this Lean Six Sigma thing,’ and that got me started on continuous improvement.”
When Wray joined Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI as CIO, he saw that there was no real continuous improvement discipline in the company— no structured approach to improving cost, customer service, and risk management based on Six Sigma principles. “I said, ‘We need this, and I’m going to sponsor it.’ ”
As his company’s continuous improvement champion, Wray was able to use his CIO skills to provide enterprise leadership at a different level. “If, like most CIOs, you are good at project management and good at driving structured change, you will be good at being your company’s continuous improvement champion,” says Wray. And because these skills are the same as those you use in IT project delivery, you don’t have to get permission to practice them. “Continuous improvement is a natural extension of your CIO role. It makes you a better leader, and it will give you more than technology problems to solve,” Wray says. Based on his work in this expanded role, Wray was soon promoted to COO of BCBSRI.
What this means, of course, is that continuous improvement leadership can be a key to a CIO’s ability to break into new enterprise leadership positions.
Tim Ferraell is a very recent case in point. Tim had been CIO at Grainger for decades, and this month, he assumes the new role of SVP of Innovation and Continuous Improvement. The Grainger CIO role goes to Dr. Michael Ali, former SVP of Application Services and Project Management Office at US Foods. Prior to US Foods, he was CIO at Harman and at U.K.-based Jaguar Land Rover.
Carol Zierhoffer will be joining Bechtel Corporation, an engineering, construction, management, and development services company, as their Global CIO on September 1st. Zierhoffer will be joining Bechtel from Xerox, where she led the IT organization as Global CIO and VP for almost two years. At Xerox, Steve Little has been promoted to Interim CIO to ensure a smooth transition. Prior to Xerox, Little was CIO of Schneider Electric.
HCC Insurance Holdings, Inc. announced that Parthasarathy Srinivasa joined as SVP and CIO, reporting to William N. Burke, President and COO. Srinivasa has 20 years of IT services experience, primarily in the insurance and financial services industries. Most recently, he served as Group CTO and Global CIO, Enterprise Applications at Zurich Insurance Group Limited. Prior to that, Srinivasa was VP and Divisional CIO for Multi Line Applications and CTO for Farmers Insurance Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Zurich.
Karlin Bohnert was named SVP and CIO at Price Chopper. Bohnert, reporting to Jerry Golub, President and CEO, will lead the IT team in supporting technology initiatives for the headquarters and 132-store chain. She has more than 30 years of IT experience, including working for companies such as Scott Evans, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, ANF, The Limited and MCI. Most recently, she served as CIO at RGIS in Michigan.
Chris Boult was appointed CIO for FirstGroup America (FGA). Boult has more than 24 years of IT experience, with 20 of those years coming from within the transportation industry. Most recently, Boult joined FGA from its Greyhound Lines, Inc. division, where he served as SVP of IT in Dallas, Texas.
University of Michigan IT innovator John Gohsman has been appointed as Vice Chancellor and CIO at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL). The newly created position will oversee WUSTL’s academic, research and administrative computing services. Gohsman served the University of Michigan for 30 years and previously served as Executive Director of strategy, planning and solutions.
Sahal Laher was appointed as CIO for fashion retailer Brooks Brothers. Prior to the appointment, Laher was CIO at Stride Rite and held various consulting roles at Accenture and Deloitte.
Martha Heller is CEO of Heller Search Associates, an IT executive recruiting firm specializing in CIO, CTO, CISO and senior technology roles in all industries. She is the author The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership and Be the Business: CIOs in the New Era of IT. To join the IT career conversation, subscribe to The Heller Report.