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Forbes CIO-plus Series: Bill Schlough, San Francisco Giants

As CIO of the San Francisco Giants and San Jose Giants Chairman, Bill Schlough represents a unique example of how CIOs are adopting business leadership roles of entire organizations.

by Peter High, published on Forbes.com

02-04-2013

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.

(This is the tenth in the CIO-plus series. To read the prior eight interviews with the CIO-pluses from Waste Management, McKesson, Merck, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Ameristar Casinos, Owens Corning, Marsh & McLennan, ADP, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, please click this link. To receive notice about future interviews in the series with CIO-pluses of  P&G and others, please click visit the column’s page. in the weeks to come.)

Peter High:
Bill, you have a unique CIO-plus role.  For a time you were not only CIO of the Giants as you are now and have been for 14 years, but you were also the interim-CEO of the Giants’ minor league affiliate, the Class A San Jose Giants.  You now serve as the Chairman of that team.  Let’s begin with the business’s rationale in purchasing the minor league affiliate, as I know that is not a common practice in Major League Baseball.

Bill Schlough:
The San Francisco Giants acquired a majority interest in the San Jose Giants a few years ago, and you are right – it is not a common practice in Major League Baseball. Most team’s minor league affiliates run independently.  The San Francisco Giants made this decision and it’s a strategic decision particularly at the single-A level, because that’s where a lot of player development takes place.  Player development is a key priority for us, and it really makes sense to have those incentives aligned.  We feel that if the club remained independent with independent ownership, they may favor profitability over developing and winning and that really is what it’s all about for us at the minor league level is developing and winning.  And the reason we want to win is not because it drives revenues, we want to win because we want our players to grow accustomed to that winning culture.

We’re both in the same business, of course.  The San Jose Giants draw a few thousand fans per game whereas we draw forty plus thousand fans a game, but we’re both in the business of baseball.  The San Jose Giants host 70 games, we host 81 in San Francisco and we all have similar functions like Marketing and Accounting (to name only two), but they actually have some similar IT needs that cut across the entire organization. We felt it made a lot of sense to create linkages between those different business units and the minor league level and the major league level.

Additional topics covered in the article include:

  • What was the original rationale in having you perform the dual roles as CIO and CEO, and what did you bring from the former to benefit the latter?
  • Can you provide some examples of the synergies you have wrought in your dual role?
  • How did you divide your time between the San Francisco and San Jose Clubs when your “plus” role was CEO, and how has that changed now that it is that of Chairman?

To read the full article, please visit Forbes.com

To explore other CIO-plus Series articles, please click here.

To explore the Technovation Column library, please click here.

To listen to Bill Schlough’s Forum on World Class IT podcast interview, please click here.

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