The CIO-Plus series in Forbes explores the trend of CIOs who are taking on more C-level titles. Most CIOs where many hats. The good news is, those hats are getting more strategic.
by Peter High, series on Forbes.com
In a recent article, I mentioned the trend in companies around the US and beyond of expanding the CIO’s responsibilities based on the translation of good work done in IT into other divisions and departments in the company. I refer to this phenomenon as the CIO-plus role, and there are many reasons to believe that it is here to stay. CIOs are now also Chief Innovation Officers, Heads of HR, Chief Supply Chain Officers, and Heads of Shared Services to name just a few. Column pieces will be published over several weeks, and the following interviews with leaders who have assumed these additional responsibilities, will include:
- Puneet Bhasin, the Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President of Technology, Logistics and Customer Service for Waste Management
- Chris Laping, the Senior Vice President of Business Transformation and Chief Information Officer for Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
- Randy Spratt, Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer for McKesson
- Chris Scalet, the former Executive Vice President of Global Process & Services and CIO of Merck
- Sheleen Quish, the Senior Vice President IT and HR at Ameristar Casinos
- David Johns, the Chief Information Officer and SVP of Global Information Services for Owens Corning, and who used to be Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain and Information Technology Officer of that company
- Ben Allen, the Chief Information Officer and the Chief Innovation Officer of Marsh & McLennan
- Mike Capone, the Chief Information Officer and the Corporate VP of Product Development of ADP
- Praveen Chopra, the Chief Information Officer and Chief Supply Chain Officer of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
- Bill Schlough, the Chief Information Officer of the San Francisco Giants and San Jose Giants Chairman
- Matt Aiello, Partner for the CIO/CTO executive placement practice at Heidrick & Struggles
- Tim Theriault, the Chief Information, Innovation, and Improvement Officer of Walgreens
- Karl Salnoske, the Chief Information Officer and EVP of Service Delivery of GXS
- Filippo Passerini, the Chief Information Officer and Group President of Global Business Services of Procter & Gamble
- Patty Hatter, Senior Vice President, Operations & Chief Information Officer of McAfee
- Joe Topinka, Chief Information Officer & Vice President Multichannel Commerce of Red Wing Shoes
- Linda Reed, Chief Information Officer & Vice President of Atlantic Health System
- Vic Bhagat, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Business Solutions and Chief Information Officer of EMC
Vic Bhagat held a number of prominent CIO roles at General Electric during a more than 20-year run with the company, including time as CIO of GE Aviation Services, GE Global Growth and Operations, CNBC, GE Corporate, and GE India and Southeast Asia. That breadth of responsibilities fostered an understanding of how IT can add value across industries and geographies. Bhagat also has dealt with most major vendors in the IT community, and has strong feelings about what makes for a strong partnership.
All of this has been put to good use since January of 2013, when Bhagat joined EMC as the executive vice president, Enterprise Business Solutions and the chief information officer. The breadth of his responsibilities, which are both internal and external in nature, underscore what a multi-talented IT executive Bhagat is. Now, he works for one of those vendors that he got to know as a buyer of its products and services. He has become an advocate for EMC and an empathetic voice to CIO customers of the company.
With the high profile issues plaguing the technical implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the gulf between those who understand healthcare and those who understand technology has been quite stark. There are precious few CIOs who have a practitioner’s perspective when it comes to healthcare. The stereotype between doctors and nurses and IT executives highlight very different qualities. The former are noted for their interpersonal skills, their ability to listen, while being generally technophobes in practice. The latter have historically been introverted problem solvers who often operated more as order takers rather than as proactive advisors. Each should take attempt to draw from the strengths of the others to become more well-rounded.
An executive who exhibits the strong qualities of each is Linda Reed because she is each. Reed is a registered nurse whose earliest experience was in that field. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she saw the transformative power of technology early on and embraced it, and then became deeply involved in it. As a result, she rose to become the CIO of Atlantic Health System. She did not leave her credentials as an RN at the door, however, drawing strength from her earlier experience. In fact, she became a CIO-plus when she added responsibilities to become the Vice President of Integrated and Behavioral Medicine & CIO of Atlantic Health System.
Red Wing Shoes has been a well-known brand for over a century especially among those who require the highest quality work boots. For those who do not conduct the sort of work that requires work boots, however, the brand may be more familiar due to the oxfords, chukkas, and the like that are sold as the Red Wing Heritage Collection in partnership with retailers such as Brooks Brothers, Nordstrom, and J. Crew.
Joe Topinka brought his size 15 feet to the Minnesota-based shoe company in May of 2008 as the company’s first ever chief information officer. (Foot size is listed on employees’ business cards.) Recognizing the opportunity to leverage technology more creatively to market and sell Red Wing Shoes’ products, Topinka pushed the organization to develop a more creative multichannel commerce strategy. He made the case so effectively that in recent months, he was given responsibility for multichannel commerce for the entire company, taking on a rare but quite logical CIO-plus role that other business-to-consumer companies will likely adopt in the future.
Patty Hatter is the rare CIO-plus who took on CIO responsibilities second. She had worked for a number of technology-centric companies such Bell Labs, AT&T, and Cisco prior to joining McAfee roughly three years ago, but she had held a number of operations roles across her company. In her mind, she was fortunate to take on the CIO role after the operations role because the standardization of processes and insights she drew in the latter greatly impacted the former and made a difficult job a little bit easier. She had two sets of first 100 days within McAfee, and the lessons of her true first 100 days (as operations leader) made the first 100 days as CIO much easier.
Filippo Passerini had a circuitous route to the CIO role, both in terms of functional as well as geographic experience. He rose through the ranks from junior to senior-most positions at P&G beginning in his native Italy through his arrival at P&G’s world headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. He started in IT, but also spent time in marketing and operations roles before becoming CIO.
As Passerini notes herein, P&G has a history of hiring CIOs who have traditional business experience in the hopes of having IT run as a typical business function. Passerini continued this tradition, and in 2005, as CIO, he led the integration of Gillette. In 2008, Passerini was also named the president of Global Business Services, and 2011 he was named Group President of Global Business Services. Now with his cross-functional responsibilities, he has developed digital war-room of sorts, assembling an assortment of leading edge analytics capabilities to enable the $84 billion colossus to make better decisions, drawing insights from across geographies, product segments, business functions and the like. As such, his organization has managed the “big data” conundrum as well as any organization in the world.
Karl Salnoske, the Executive Vice President of Service Delivery and CIO at GXS, a global leader in B2B integration, had a very diverse set of experiences prior to becoming a CIO. He had been a consultant at McKinsey, he had spent time as a general manager in IBM’s Software Solutions, and he had been the president and CEO of a start-up that provided the next generation in decision optimization tools to help customers in the energy and process industries reduce costs and maximize revenues. That company, Adaptive Trade, was acquired by B2eMarkets in 2004, and it was soon thereafter that he began his first ever stint as a CIO at Schering-Plough, where he would remain for over five years.
Salnoske is the first of the CIO-pluses profiled herein who joined his company as a CIO-plus. The job was not initially specified as a CIO-plus role, however. In fact, Salnoske, leveraging his skills as an expert in diagnosing problems to identify that the company needed someone who would oversee a broader variety of divisions of the company to get to the root cause of an issue that had been labeled as an operations problem, as he explains at some length herein.
Tim Theriault’s title is more than a mouthful, but it befits the many responsibilities he has at Walgreens. He is the Chief Information, Innovation, and Improvement Officer of the $72 billion pharmaceutical retailer. In that role, Theriault is responsible for all of IT, but also “Big I” and “little i” innovations, as he explains herein, centered on revenue enhancement and cost reduction.
It is not a surprise that Theriault would add revenue and costs reduction responsibilities to his role as CIO since he was once the chief technology officer of Northern Trust Bank, but then rose to the role of president of the bank’s corporate and institutional services business. He now finds himself squarely in the middle of a major healthcare transformation that the company is in the throes of, and sees creative use of information and technology as a key component of that transformation.
Of the CIO-pluses that have been profiled thus far, none were hired into their roles as CIO-pluses. Eight of the ten were CIOs first, and then added additional responsibilities. It made me curious whether there are companies that are starting to think about CIO-pluses as they embark on the hiring process. I reached out to Matt Aiello for the answer. Matt is a partner in the CIO/CTO practice at Heidrick & Struggles. As a CIO/CTO recruiter, he has placed more than seventy IT executives into companies that span most industries. From his perch, he sees a rising appetite for CIOs to be hired with the plus. He explains this in my interview with him herein.
Upon meeting him, you would not necessarily guess that Bill Schlough collects jewelry, but he is the proud owner of two of the most coveted rings in America: World Series Championship rings that he earned as CIO of the San Francisco Giants, garnered after the 2010 and 2012 teams won it all. For our baseball fan readers, please try to push past the jealousy to understand the many interesting aspects of Schlough’s story. He graduated from Duke with an engineering degree and has an MBA from Wharton, and has been working in sports since World Cup USA 1994, the biggest soccer tournament in the world. He worked at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, and landed as the CIO of the San Francisco Giants in 1999, giving him an impressively long tenure in that role.
Schlough’s “plus” came as he and his colleagues with the Giants saw an opportunity to increase the synergies between the Major League team and the Class-A affiliate San Jose Giants. He first joined San Jose as interim-CEO on a six month stint starting in August of 2011. He has continued on as Chairman of that club, identifying more opportunities to collaborate, grow the business and leverage technology for player development purposes along the way, as he mentions in my interview with him below.
Praveen Chopra worked in supply chain in consulting for Accenture, and at The Home Depot for a number of years before early 2005 when he took over that function for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a nearly $2 billion pediatric healthcare group with three hospitals and 17 neighborhood locations in Greater Atlanta. As he recognized that the success of supply chain was increasingly dependent on system integration, data integrity, and other key aspects typically run by the IT department, he determined that tight integration between IT and supply chain was a must. After a series of conversations with the CFO of the company, Chopra took over responsibility of IT as the CIO in early 2006, while keeping his supply chain responsibilities. He had a deep foundation in technology dating back to his undergraduate degree in computer science and engineering, but continuing through to his deep collaborations with CIOs over the years. As a result, Chopra was able to transition successfully to the CIO-plus role, and to garner tremendous value at the nexus between IT and supply chain, as he highlights in the interview below.
Automatic Data Processing’s Mike Capone is someone who has long had a foot in information technology and a foot in the business. He has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but he also has an MBA. He spent time as a vice president of IT at ADP, but he went on to be a General Manager of a global HR & payroll outsourcing business within the company. In July 2008, he became ADP’s first ever global Chief Information Officer. When he took on that role, he did so as a business executive would, however. He pushed IT ever closer to the rest of the organization. He developed a mandate for innovation during the heart of the economic malaise. He also accompanied sales executives on sales calls with customers, and pushed his team to do the same. In so doing, IT’s value to the company grew. Therefore, in the second half of 2012, Capone added the role of Corporate Vice President of Product Development to his CIO title, adding a very business-centric role to his one in IT. His is an example of an IT executive who successfully amplifies the value of IT to the point where it is only logical that he take over a key business role. As Capone points out in my interview with him, nearly all ADP products have IT components to them, so having an executive who oversees both worlds provides tremendous synergy and efficiency.
Ben Allen has had an unusual path to his current role as chief information officer and chief innovation officer at Marsh & McLennan. He rose to the role of president and chief executive officer of Kroll, Inc., which was an operating company within Marsh & McLennan until it was sold by that company to Altegrity, Inc. in August 2010. Soon after the divestiture, Allen re-joined Marsh & McLennan with the first of his CIO titles, that of chief innovation officer. He was the first person to hold that title in the company. A large portion of his responsibilities were centered on facilitating greater collaboration and value creation from across the company. Interestingly enough, that is a role the best chief information officers play, as they have reason to collaborate with leaders of each business unit and division of a company often in ways that those leaders do not with each other. These similarities were not lost on Allen, who assumed his second CIO role, that of chief information officer, less than a year after his return to Marsh & McLennan.
David Johns has been CIO of Owens Corning since 1994, which is extraordinary considering the average tenure of CIOs today is roughly four years. In that time, he has had multiple “pluses” to his CIO role. He is currently the Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer, and Chief Shared Services Officer. Prior to his current role, he was Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer and Chief Supply Chain Officer. He also led the Owens Corning Technology Center as Chief Technology Officer for a time. Johns’ experience at Owens Corning highlights how solid work done in transforming IT, developing shared services or centers of excellence can yield value that translates to other parts of the organization quite well. Especially since the economic malaise began in earnest in 2008, a number of leading CIOs have seized the opportunity to develop shared services have have yielded more efficiencies and value for their companies in the process. There is no reason why this should not be done in other parts of the organization as well. The best CIOs, like Johns, realize that they are ideally equipped to lead this in other parts of the organization, as is highlighted in my interview with him below.
Information Technology and Human Resources are corporate divisions that have been quite different historically. When Ameristar Casinos CIO Sheleen Quish was asked to take over Human Resources as well, it might have seemed to be a strange combination, but always an autodidact, she threw herself into her new role, and uncovered many similarities between these traditionally disparate departments. In the process, she transformed each to be more proactive, more consultative, and more cognizant of its contribution to the overall value to the company. As it turns out, Quish has long looked to have a broad set of responsibilities, and has constantly sought opportunities to broaden the value she could offer to each company for which she has worked. In the process, she has become a model CIO-plus.
This is the fifth article in the CIO-plus series, covering CIOs whose roles have been augmented due to the good work they did first and foremost as CIOs, but also recognizing that the good work translated into other areas. I recently spoke with Chris Scalet, the former executive vice president, Global Services, and Chief Information Officer at Merck & Co., Inc. as part of the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. Scalet developed one of the first shared services organizations at Merck when he centralized infrastructure, yielding a nine-figure savings per year in the process. The CEO of the company was sufficiently impressed that he asked Scalet to do the same in other parts of the company. Scalet began with Human Resources and with Finance, but eventually took responsibility for a wider array of functions. Scalet humbly surmises that the path he pursued should be accessible and achievable by most CIOs, no matter the industry, though he readily admits that the devil is in the details.
Randy Spratt runs information technology for the largest company in the largest sector of the largest economy on earth. For most of the last decade, he has served as Chief Information Officer for the $123 billion healthcare behemoth, McKesson Corporation (NYSE: MCK), and in 2009, he assumed the Chief Technology Officer responsibilities. To the uninitiated, the CIO/CTO dual role may seem less dynamic than some other CIO-plus combinations we have covered and will yet cover in this series. However, that analysis would be wrong as Spratt tells us, these are distinct responsibilities, and they reflect both sides of the information technology landscape which become more complex the larger the company is.
In a recent article, I mentioned the trend in companies around the US and beyond of expanding the CIO’s responsibilities based on the translation of good work done in IT into other divisions and departments in the company. I refer to this phenomenon as the CIO-plus role. I kicked off the series last week with an interview with Puneet Bhasin, the Senior Vice President – Technology, Logistics and Customer Service, Chief Information Officer of Waste Management. This week, I am delighted to continue the series with Chris Laping, the Senior Vice President of Business Transformation and Chief Information Officer of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (NASDAQ: RRGB).
Laping has what I believe to be the ideal background for a CIO. He has an engineering degree as an undergraduate, an MBA, he spent time as a consultant, and though he is not yet 40, he has been a CIO for ten years. He joined Red Robin as CIO in June of 2007, and after transforming that organization, added the role of SVP of Business Transformation to his title in February of 2011, noting that the company hoped that his “transformation” activities would not be limited to IT. Now it seems that each analyst call that Red Robin CEO Stephen Carley leads features initiatives that Laping and his team leads or co-leads, such as the development of the Red Royalty customer loyalty program that he oversaw in concert with the company’s CMO, which has contributed substantial sales lift in those stores where it has been fully implemented.
I am delighted to kick off the series with an interview I recently conducted with Puneet Bhasin of Waste Management. Although Bhasin does have an engineering degree, he did not spend the early part of his career in IT departments. He was a consultant and a business executive prior to becoming CIO of Ryder TRS. Just prior to joining Waste Management, he had held a CIO-plus role of sorts at Monster Worldwide, as he was SVP, Product & Technology & CIO, North America.
Bhasin joined Waste Management in December 2009 as CIO. As he explains in our interview, it was based on some early insights that he determined that Waste Management needed to formalize its logistics business, and he became the first leader of that business. A few months ago, he added Customer Service responsibilities, and thus he is now the Senior Vice President – Technology, Logistics and Customer Service, Chief Information Officer of Waste Management.
As IT leaders become much more business-centric in terms of their skillset, they have been asked to assume additional responsibilities beyond their traditional IT roles. The reasons are varied, but it is at least partially due to the fact that IT is one of the few (some argue the only) departments that understand business processes from end-to-end. Moreover, IT leaders must speak with peers in the c-suite or heads of business units about their plans and strategies. Clever IT executives recognize that this puts them in an ideal position to identify themes from across the organization and suggest single solutions to address multiple needs while fostering greater collaboration across the company. Lastly, as CIOs and their teams develop competencies related to people management, governance, security, procurement, vendor management among many other topics, these are areas of expertise that apply to other parts of the organization as well.