Schneider Electric's Frederic Chanfrau is more than just a traditional CIO

APCby Schneider Electric is one of the most acquisitive companies in IT, power management, light engineering and any of the industry sectors and 100 nations that this multibillion-pound utility management giant now straddles.

The job of CIO in any company is never easy and as IT merges with every other function of the business, you are constantly in territorial skirmishes with other directors, with their war cries of "IT's a utility!" and "We're all IT experts now!". But surviving in a company that's taken over by a bigger rival and then continues to ingest other businesses, each of which has its own chief information officer, is even more challenging.

In those situations, there's the possibility that the office politics might not just extend to other departmental heads, but also to people with the exact same skill set, experiences and ambitions as yourself. More disconcertingly yet, they may be pushier, better at their job or - the worst-case scenario - better at giving the impression that they're great at their job than you. It's well documented that industries in flux are a great source of stress.

In 2004, Frederic Chanfrau was CIO of French power management company MGE UPS Systems when it was acquired by its bigger rival, American Power Conversion (APC). Being taken over by a bigger fish is disconcerting enough and frequently the 'duplicates' from the acquired company drift away to new challenges. Not Chanfrau. He managed to not only survive in these conditions but thrived. In early 2007 he'd not long got used to his new title - global chief information officer - when another change was foisted on him as APC was acquired by an even bigger rival, the French automation control equipment giant Schneider Electric. In half a decade he'd switched from a French company culture to an American firm and back to a French way of working.

Now, however, as senior vice-president IT, Chanfrau is no longer strictly a CIO, even if the application of skills and knowledge is the same. At the beginning of 2009, APC Schneider found it had bought so many companies it had seven different CIOs. It rationalised them into different functional silos, and appointed Chanfrau as sole chief innovation officer.

Strategic viewpoint

Chanfrau is now in charge of the governance and quality team of the newly created information process and organisation department. He defines the IT strategy and related processes for the whole Schneider Electric group and is also in charge of managing all the green IT initiatives.

Does he miss being a CIO? Or is he still a CIO, albeit one with an invented job title?

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