IT’s Shift From Service Provider to Business Partner

March 08, 2016
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Peter High


Excerpt from the Article:

Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) is the largest public retirement system in Texas in both membership and assets. It is the sixth largest public pension plan in the U.S. and is among the 20 largest in the world. The agency serves more than 1.4 million people–1,081,505 are public and higher education members, and 377,738 are retirement recipients. System net assets total approximately $128.5 billion. As CIO, Chris Cutler oversees and provides strategic direction for the use of technology and information resources that enables TRS to successfully fulfill its mission. As Cutler tells CIO Insight contributor Peter High, he wears many hats: business leader, technology evangelist, business partner, recruiter, change agent and bridge builder.

Peter High: Please describe your role as CIO of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

Chris Cutler: As CIO, I wear many hats. These hats include: business leader, technology evangelist, business partner, recruiter, change agent and bridge builder.

Business Leader

As a business leader I serve as a member on the TRS Executive Council. The TRS Executive Council is comprised of C-suite executives and led by our executive director. This council provides guidance to the executive director and makes final decisions on overall corporate policies and directions.

Technology Evangelist

As technology evangelist, I am responsible for educating the Executive Council and our business leaders on the technology and services IT provides and how they can best leverage our offerings. This role also includes marketing the value of IT and building support for future technology initiatives.

Business Partner

IT is a business enabler, providing secure and highly available technology solutions that enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of TRS and our members. As such, it’s my job to ensure IT is seen by our individual business areas as a true business partner, not just simply a service provider. IT needs to truly understand the business of TRS and be proactive in helping solve business problems and recommend innovations that move our business forward.


The most important asset an IT division has is its people. This may sound a bit cliché, but it is true–especially in IT. As CIO, it’s my job to promote the TRS IT Division both internally and externally as well as to actively seek out individuals who would make good additions to our team. Also, just as important, is demonstrating the leadership, vision and support needed to keep the great employees we already have.

Change Agent

The one thing that is certain in IT is it’s going to change. Many times these technology changes have a significant impact on the rest of the business and/or provide an opportunity for improving efficiency. As such, the CIO often finds himself or herself in the position of change agent, promoting and leading enterprise projects that bring about significant shifts in the organization.

Bridge Builder

Finally, as CIO I have a unique view into the varying business units and their cultures. This gives me a unique perspective on how the business runs, how it communicates and how decisions are made. This also provides opportunities to build strong business relationships within the different business areas. With this knowledge and relationships, I can often be a catalyst in helping build bridges and achieve understandings across the different business areas when conflicts arise.

To read the full article, please visit CIO Insight

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