Forbes The CIO’s First 100 Days Series: Tom Murphy, VP and CIO of UPenn

February 02, 2015
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Tom Murphy on bringing his for-profit experience to the non-profit world

by Peter High, published on 02-02-2015

University of Pennsylvania Vice President of IT and University Chief Information Officer Tom Murphy has held the CIO role at a number of leading companies, including AmerisourceBergen, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Omni Hotels, and Davita Healthcare Partners.  He has been elected to CIOMagazine’s prestigious CIO Hall of Fame in 2010. The move to become a university CIO was unusual, as many CIOs of universities grow up in the university setting. Having been an influential executive at a number of massive corporations, he has needed his skills as an influencer all the more at Penn, where different schools such as the Medical School, the Wharton School of Business, and the Law School each have CIOs with their own imperatives and budgets. Murphy’s background is unusual in that he was an English major as an undergraduate, and has no formal training in engineering or IT disciplines other than what he has learned on the job. As a result, his ability to communicate in written form in addition to his strong oral communications skills have proven to be a recipe for success.  Herein, Murphy shares the steps he undertook in the first 100 days of his time at Penn. (This is the 20th article in the CIO’s First 100 Days series.  To read interviews with other in the series, including the CIOs of GE, Time Warner, Caterpillar, Intel, and Johnson & Johnson, among many others, please visit: this link . To read future articles in the series, please click the “Follow” link above.) Peter High: Can you describe your purview in your current role as CIO of the University of Pennsylvania? Tom Murphy: I am the Vice President of Information Technology and University CIO. My responsibility is providing central IT services, so think of all of the utilities that are provided to support the school—the network, the telephony, and the wireless— we also run the primary data centers and administrative systems essential to Penn.

We provide all of the foundational support necessary, then the schools and centers all have their own IT organizations that run very proximate to the faculty and the students. Our local service providers are hyper-vigilant to the needs of the school.

We are a little different here, in that we charge back everything. So we literally sell our services, which requires reliability and consistency as well as us constantly looking for ways to do more with less. There is an expectation that we will continue to develop opportunities that support growth on campus while maintaining the same price—which is not that dissimilar from being the CIO of a Fortune 500. We use a budget model called Responsibility Center Management, which is a model that essentially allows each school to operate as its own business. It is a different model, but it has worked for many years. I just have to get very good at how to use it…

To read the full article, please visit To explore the Technovation Column library, please click here. To explore the CIO’s first 100 days series, please click here.

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