The CIO’s First 100 Days series in Forbes explores what the CIOs at some of the world’s most recognizable firms did, and what they could have done differently at the onset of their tenure.
by Peter High, series on Forbes.com
In a recent article, I highlighted a number of lessons, some of them common, and others unique, to which I will develop the series titled, “The CIO’s First 100 Days.” For years, the CIO was among the “c-level” executive with the shortest or near shortest average tenure. The reasons for this were manifold including the fact that the average c-level executive (almost all of whom outranked the CIO) did not clearly understand technology, and it was easy to choose the CIO as a scapegoat if things were amiss within the company generally or within IT more specifically. Given the fact that so much that is managed by the IT leader can be esoteric in the minds of other business executives within the company, it is essential to push hard in one’s first 100 days to build relationships, to communicate a plan, and to track progress against that plan.
Column pieces will be published over several weeks, and will include the following discussions with leaders about their 100-day strategic plans:
- The CIO’s Reputation Is Cemented In The First 100 Days
- Randy Krotowski, Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Caterpillar
- Bill Krivoshik, Chief Information Officer of Time Warner
- Ken Piddington, Chief Information Officer of Global Partners
- Kevin Hart, Chief Technology Officer of Cox Communications
- Kim Stevenson, Chief Information Officer of Intel
- Marc Saffer, Chief Information Officer of J.Crew
- Jay Ferro, Chief Information Officer of the American Cancer Society
- Ken Venner, Chief Information Officer of SpaceX
- Brook Colangelo, Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- Dale Danilewitz, Chief Information Officer of AmerisourceBergen
- Jason Molfetas, Chief Information Officer of Amtrak
- David Kline, Chief Information Officer of Viacom
- Stuart McGuigan, Chief Information Officer of Johnson & Johnson
- Charlie Feld, Chief Executive Officer of of the Feld Group Institute
- Martha Heller, Chief Executive Officer of Heller Search Associates
Below are the CIO’s First 100 Days series’ most recent posts:
We have one chance to make a first impression. This axiom applies best in the professional arena where one’s reputation can be cemented within a few short weeks of joining a company.
The Chief Information Officer was once a rather transient position. For years, it was among the “c-level” executive with the shortest or near shortest average tenure. The reasons for this were manifold including the fact that the average c-level executive (almost all of whom outranked the CIO) did not clearly understand technology, and it was easy to choose the CIO as a scapegoat if things were amiss within the company generally or within IT more specifically. Given the fact that so much that is managed by the IT leader can be esoteric in the minds of other business executives within the company, it is essential to push hard in one’s first 100 days to build relationships, to communicate a plan, and to track progress against that plan.
When Randy Krotowski learned that Caterpillar was looking for a new CIO, he had just come to the conclusion with his wife that he would end his career with Chevron, a company that he had been gainfully employed by for 29 years. He had had a diverse array of experiences at the energy giant, and thoroughly enjoyed the work. He listened to the details of the new opportunity not thinking that he really could be convinced. The more he listened, the more interested he became, until he ultimately joined the company in February of 2012.
It had been a while since his first 100 days with a new company, but Krotowski recognized that his newness meant that he needed to get out and meet other leaders, learn more about the supply chain of the company, draw parallels between his old employer and his new one in order to generate creative insights, and to get some quick wins under his belt. In this interview I recently conducted with Krotowski, he talks about what he has done well, as well as what he would do differently if he had the chance to do things over.
Bill Krivoshik has been a CIO since the mid-1990s, with stints at such esteemed companies as GE Capital, AIG, Citigroup, Thomson Financial, and Marsh & McLennan. He has been the global chief information officer multiple times over, and has been the first to hold that title at multiple companies to boot. He has each of those distinctions at Time Warner, a company he joined just over two years ago.
Krivoshik says that the key to a successful first 100 days and beyond is to focus on building relationships at the new company, develop quick-wins for the rest of the organization, and to contemplate people, process, and technologies changes early in one’s tenure, among other insights he shares herein.
When Ken Piddington joined Global Partners as the firm’s first-ever chief information officer four years ago, the Waltham, MA-based energy supply business was already a major corporation with revenues of roughly $6 billion, yet the company had thrived without the benefit of a CIO. Leadership realized that it had reached a tipping point in its business where information technology needed to be managed much more strategically than it had been previously. In the years since, revenues have tripled to nearly $18 billion. Recognizing that the company’s growth would be fueled by acquisitions, he built a playbook to ensure that IT could respond efficiently to support those acquisitions. He also variabilized the cost structure of IT to a much greater extent using cloud technologies and an ecosystem of vendor partners so that he could support the growth of the company seamlessly. Where many IT departments can become victims of a company’s success, with systems and hardware that is not flexible enough to grow quickly in an efficient manner, this was an objective of Piddington’s from the outset.
When Kevin Hart joined Cox Communications as its CTO in April 2011, he had the ideal profile for an IT executive. He had earned an undergraduate degree in engineering, and later got an MBA. He had spent considerable time as a consultant, solving problems for a wide array of businesses and executives, and then was a CIO multiple times over at companies like Clearwire Corporation and Level 3. Ever the problem solver, Hart viewed his new challenge with Cox Communications as a series of opportunities to harvest, and he took a methodical approach to acquiring knowledge about his new company and its industry, built solid relationships with his fellow business executives, assessed and made relevant changes to his team to ensure that it was built for speed, and then set up metrics to prove progress was being made. The approach that Hart details herein is a recipe for success, and it is no wonder that he has achieved it in the two and one half years since he started.
Kim Stevenson has one of the biggest jobs in information technology. As CIO of Intel, she leads a diverse team of technologists within a company that is historically known to be a paragon of technology innovation. When she took her current post nearly two years ago, she had been part of the IT leadership team already. Yet, as a new CIO she needed to develop a new relationship with her peers among the division heads and the broader leadership team. She found that leaders outside of IT were quite happy with IT, but she came to a surprising conclusion: they were not expecting enough of the IT department. As Stevenson notes herein, she realized that if Intel was going to succeed in increasing the pace of innovation, IT needed to be more of a contributor to that innovation. Her first 100 days in her job were critical in setting a new tone and culture within IT; it is a path that is not for the faint of heart, but the accomplishments of her team are evidence enough that it is a path worth emulating.
J.Crew’s brand seems much larger than its roughly $2 billion in revenue would suggest. One of the reasons the 30 year old retailer seems larger is that it has always leveraged catalog and Internet channels creatively in addition to its store presence. That said, its information technology was deemed as being in need of an update when the current chief information officer, Marc Saffer, joined the company three and a half years ago. That much was clear to him after a long interview process. Once he joined, much of what he did in the early stages went against typical practices for CIOs who are new to a company and who find themselves leading a department in need of transformation. Saffer has been a CIO at four major retailers, and his experience has given him confidence that his approach yields results. Instead of moving fast in developing his plans, he moved deliberately, working with colleagues across divisions to ensure his decisions would gain the buy-in of his colleagues in IT and his peers outside of the department. He was also respectful of the plans of his predecessor, not quickly tearing them up and building an entirely new plan, recognizing that it might alienate some key colleagues if he were so insensitive. He also waited to make decisions on staff changes in lieu of quickly firing some members and replacing them with colleagues from his past. He made sure he knew each of them well before judging them. He has been rewarded for deliberating in this fashion with a successful tenure to date, and loyal colleagues within and outside of the IT department.
Jay Ferro joined the American Cancer Society with a very personal connection to the disease. He lost his wife to cervical cancer in early 2007. She had, in many ways been his inspiration to become a CIO, as she was his cheerleader, and someone on whom he could lean as he pursued an MBA while working full-time. He established a foundation in her honor called Priscilla’s Promise. Despite his connection to the disease, he did not actively seek this opportunity. He had been a CIO twice over, once at a division of AIG, and later at AdCare Health Systems. When he was approached to join the team, he had many of the preconceptions (and as he later learned, they were truly misconceptions) about non-profit organizations and their ability to drive value efficiently.