Meet Ricoh Americas CIO Turned COO, Tracey Rothenberger
Tracey Rothenberger joined Ricoh Americas Corporation by virtue of the company’s acquisition of IKON Office Solutions. He was Chief Information Officer of IKON at the time of the acquisition, and he maintained the position upon joining Ricoh. An open communicator, Rothenberger prides himself on his ability to draw insights about the plans and needs of his colleagues to advise them on how to bring their plans to life through technology and the better use of information. This tendency led to him becoming a CIO-plus, adding the responsibilities of Chief Process Officer, as it was evident that he could drive significant process change for the entire company.
As his perspective grew, the value he contributed to Ricoh Americas grew with it and he was promoted in March of last year to become Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Ricoh Americas. As has been the case with other executives who have been profiled in the “Beyond CIO” series, leveraging the unique vantage point that the CIO has in the corporate structure to synchronize efforts, and identify innovative ideas that add value in multiple divisions of the company lends itself well to the aggrandizing of responsibilities. In this interview with Rothenberger, he speaks about the advantage of his time as CIO and how the experiences lent themselves well to his current role as COO.
(To listen to an unabridged audio interview with Rothenberger, please visit this link. This is the 17th article in the “Beyond CIO” series. To read prior interviews with executives from companies like TD Ameritrade, Marsh & McLennan, American Express, Hewlett-Packard, and Aetna, among others, please visit this link . To receive updates on future articles in the series, please click the “Follow” link above.)
Peter High: What was the benefit assumed in bringing together the diverse array of competencies that make up your team?
Tracey Rothenberger: IT and Process Improvement were probably the first step in this evolution, and we combined those two roles four years ago. We looked across the organization to try to drive improvements in all aspects of the business. The Enterprise Services team was created about a year and a half ago. Most of the advanced solutions are more in line with the approaches and methodologies IT leaders and CIOs would think about as they’re trying to implement workflow efficiencies, document improvements, and better use of information inside the environment.
Peter High: What was it about your time as CIO that prepared you for your current responsibilities as COO?
Tracey Rothenberger: I think one of the things that all CIOs have in common is that they are asked to have a fairly broad visibility across the organization. Both roles tend to see the things that are working well and the areas that have a challenge from an unbiased viewpoint typically. The IT organization that serves the business functions and members of the IT team have a unique perspective about opportunities in those functions to make things better. I think most CIOs operate from that vantage point which is an advantage when you look at the career paths for any CIO that wants to go and do something beyond the IT organization. Whether a CIO makes it to the next level is determined by whether they act on the information that they can garner from the broad view they have for the greater good of the company. When you find a CIO who is willing to put his or her neck out and make tough recommendations that involve not just IT systems but also business change or business transformation, that’s when you identify a CIO who is ready to go the next level.
Additional topics covered in the article include:
- As you think back at the point at which it became apparent to you and to perhaps your colleagues that there was more that could be done, do you happen to recall some of those adjacent spaces that you began to get into as you developed recommendations for improvements?
- Can you talk a bit about your relationship with your peers and your bosses as you began the journey to and eventually beyond CIO?
- Unlike many CIOs, you have had customer-facing responsibilities in the past. How has that helped you as a CIO and now as a COO?
- As you reflect on this journey from CIO to COO, do you think that this is a path that more executives are likely to travel?
- Now that you are the boss to IT, what have you taken with you now that you have IT reporting to you as opposed to being the leader of that function exclusively?
- You have said that culture wins over strategy. What do you mean by that?