As part of Peter High’s Forbes Technovation Column, this CIO-plus Series interview with Randy Spratt, Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer of McKesson, reveals how the dual technology-centric roles require different skills.
by Peter High, published on Forbes.com
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.
(To read past articles in the CIO-plus series, please click this link.)
Randy, you have been Chief Information Officer of McKesson Corporation for nearly a decade. In 2009, you added the Chief Technology Officer role. How do you distinguish between those roles?
The CIO role is fairly typical for a large, federated model company. I have overall accountability for the company’s infrastructure and business applications; some of this is discharged directly, such as USA infrastructure and global applications. Some is discharged through governance. Examples include enterprise architecture and business specific applications. Some of this is stewardship with board accountability, like IT risk and IT security. In this role, I set the strategic direction, and am ultimately accountable for the successful operations, of the company’s information assets.
The CTO role is not typical. You will find many different definitions of CTO, usually distinguished as either the CIO’s chief technologist or, for technology companies, the individual that sets the technology direction and charts the future of the company’s technology products. As our CEO said when he completed the market review of CTO roles for the board to consider compensation, “If you’ve seen one CTO, you’ve seen one CTO.” In my role, I am responsible for three major initiatives at the enterprise level, to be accomplished by working collaboratively with each of the businesses that develop and deliver technology products to McKesson’s customers:
- To align the technology plans, direction, and standards adopted by each of our businesses as we progress toward a connected healthcare world;
- To improve the development capability, maturity, and visibility of our strategic software development organizations, and to establish and monitor software quality standards and security standards that meet or exceed the requirements of regulatory bodies in our industry
- To attract, retain, and recognize top technology talent as we make McKesson an ever more desirable place for technologists to build a career in a field where lives matter.
- You are the first ever CTO, as well. What was the rationale for creating the role?
- Why did McKesson and you determine that it would be best for a single person to hold each of these titles versus having two people responsible for the two sets of responsibilities?
- How do you divide your time between the roles?
- Does the team you oversee divide into a CIO group and a CTO group, or are they intermixed?
- As you reflect on the more than three years that you have held these dual roles, what recommendations do you have for others who aspire to do the same, or who have just been asked to undertake a CIO/CTO dual role?