I would like to introduce a new series, which I refer to as “Business CIO.” Information Technology is becoming much more of the business by the business and for the business than ever before. This is true because almost all business trends have deep technology components to them. Not only every industry, but practically every function within every company needs IT to run its most strategic processes and platforms. Lastly, customers are becoming ever more technology savvy. As a result, companies are demanding that IT leadership reflect this business-centricity. This is a diverse lot, including individuals like:
- Linda Reed, CIO & Vice President of Atlantic Health System
- Brian Bonner, CIO of Texas Instruments
- Jamie Miller, SVP & CIO of General Electric
- Bruce Hoffmeister, Global CIO of Marriott
- Tim McCabe, SVP & CIO of Delphi
- Stephanie von Friedeburg, CIO of the World Bank Group
- Atticus Tysen, CIO of Intuit
In the kick-off article to the series, I highlight some key themes from the broad perspectives of these diverse CIOs:
- Their non-traditional backgrounds give them a holistic view of technology and IT
- Their unique methods and tactics to understand IT during the early phases of their tenures
- The fresh perspectives they add to IT strategic planning as former users of IT services
- The role their prior experiences play in setting the “new” mindset of their IT department
- Their tendencies to interact more with employees across the organization but also down IT
Below are the Business CIO Series’ most recent posts:
Like other companies, the IT function at Intuit used to be one that the rest of the company loved to complain about. It was an easy scapegoat for a number of issues. Atticus Tysen has been at Intuit for 14 years, and for the first 11 years of that experience, he was outside of IT and was quite familiar with the complaints. He held roles in Product Management, in Engineering and Operations, and in Enterprise Business Solutions. Rather than pile on as others complained, Tysen elected to do something about it by joining IT as senior vice president and chief information officer three years ago.
Since then, Tysen has revamped the function such that it has more of a product leadership mentality rather than that of the order takers of old. He has also ensured that IT is transparent in its communications so that the value it contributes is more readily understood by the company and its customers. Tysen covered all of the above while also offering advice for CIOs of non-technology centric companies who might wish to emulate some of what he has done in the transformation he has led.
Stephanie von Friedeburg is the CIO and Vice President of Information Technology Solutions at the World Bank Group. In that capacity, she has overseen a tremendous transformation of IT across the Group throughout the 186 countries in which it operates. A primary weapon in her arsenal has been better use of cloud technology. This has increased the flexibility of IT, while also enhancing the Bank’s information security around the globe.
Additionally, she has joined a small but growing group of CIOs who have been asked to join the boards of companies. In addition to being a part of the Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union, von Friedeburg is on the board of Box.org. Part of the reason she has been board-ready has been the fact that she has a non-traditional background. With foreign policy degrees and an MBA from the Wharton School, von Friedeburg began her career at the Bank in non-technical roles. She has an auto-didact’s talent to learn quickly, while surrounding herself with a talented team with complementary strengths. She covers all the above and more in this interview.
Early in his career, Tim McCabe would not have anticipated that he would lead IT for a multi-billion dollar company. He studied philosophy as an undergraduate rather than focusing on a technical discipline. He joined the legal department at General Motors, and led Global Outsourcing for the automotive behemoth. It was during this time that he integrated more deeply into the IT department, first at General Motors, and later as Director of Strategy and Sourcing for Delphi Automotive. When he took over the chief information officer responsibilities at Delphi, he did so as a business-centric IT leader. He notes that even as CIO, he is a business leader first, and a technology leader second.
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.
As Reed explains in this video interview that I conducted with her, the advantages of having experience as a healthcare practitioner and as a technology executive offers her an almost unique ability to see opportunities and threats in the business and address them in equal measure with technology solutions. If only there were more people like her assisting the President of the United States at the moment.
Brian Bonner is the CIO of Texas Instruments, a $13 billion dollar semi-conductor company, and he manages a central IT organization that supports all aspects of IT including manufacturing, sales, and product development throughout the world. His organization is 1,100 people strong. Although Bonner has engineering degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels, he spent time in a wide array of functions outside of IT, such as his role as vice president of Worldwide Mass Marketing and Acquisition Integration at Texas Instruments. He has also held general management, sales, and product development roles and was responsible for product strategy & development as well as revenue generation. His vast experience across nearly 20 years at Texas Instruments has made him a particularly business savvy IT executive, and it has meant that he has not been patient with any perception of IT as a support organization.
His business savviness has also made him an attractive candidate to sit on boards of different kinds. Currently, he is a board member of Copper Mobile and he is an advisory board member to for Gemini Israel Ventures. Bonner says that board membership has made him a much stronger executive at Texas Instruments, and recommends that others who might seek a board position first work on demonstrating business value in their current roles as CIO, demonstrating that they have the know-how necessary to become a board-level CIO.
Bruce Hoffmeister’s path to the role of Global CIO of Marriott has been an interesting one. He actually grew in the Finance function of the company. Having minored in computer science as an undergraduate before receiving his MBA with concentrations in finance and accounting, he had an appreciation for technology. He realized early that there was power at the nexus of technology and finance. One way in which he brought the functions closer together at Marriott was by developing a training module for IT employees on the basics of finance, with a special emphasis on the financial metrics that were of particular importance to the hospitality industry. An example is revenue per available room, or RevPAR, as it is commonly referred to in the industry. He found that too few members of the IT team were familiar with its make-up, and therefore were disconnected with the role IT could play in improving it. His training modules ensured that more people in IT were thinking about applying technology to great value for the company.
Just as more IT employees had reason to think further about finance, Hoffmeister had more reason to think about the power of technology. He left his post as SVP of Global Revenue Management to become the head of Global Sales & Marketing Technology and the Shared Services before becoming Global CIO.
When I asked Hoffmeister about the logic of his rising to the role with his background, he indicated that he believed he was the right person for the role at the time he took it, but he also said that he realizes that the needs of a company change, and the ideal executive today may be the wrong one in the future as needs change. This humility is rare among executives with such a broad purview, and has served Hoffmeister well in focusing on the present needs of Marriott, but also in preparing the future leaders of the IT function.
Jamie Miller runs information technology for one of the most complex and admired companies in the world: General Electric. One would think that the CIO of such a company would have a deep technical background, perhaps having an advanced degree in an engineering discipline along with multiple stints as CIO previously. Miller’s resume may not have these items on it, but she has something that IT departments increasingly need: financial expertise.
IT used to be a part of Finance in many companies, as some of the earliest technologies developed at big companies was technology applied to the general ledger, accounting systems more generally, and the like. Likewise, when technology was taught at busienss schools, it was often a sub-set of the accounting department. It is perhaps ironic that a growing number of CIOs have grown up through the Finance function. Miller has leveraged her background to make IT more transparent and accountable, and ever more cognizant of the value that it delivers to the enterprise. CIOs with or without financial backgrounds should follow her lead.