How We Picked Our Top CIOs

By Allan Alter  |  Posted 05-17-2007

"Influential" will never have the air of rigor, however phony, that ROI enjoys. There is no equivalent in the IT world to baseball statistician Bill James, measuring CIOs by such metrics as NPCC Average (Number of Projects Copied by Competitors), PCOTAB Percentage (Projects Completed On Time and Budget) or LIF Index (Lifetime Industry Firsts). Still, it's interesting to go out on a limb, put our heads together, and see who we think are the movers and shakers of the CIO world.

To come up with our list, a committee of eight of the top editors and writers from CIO Insight, Baseline and eWeek nominated candidates from the ranks of current U.S.-based CIOs who do not work for technology vendors. (Not that there aren't influential CIOs in the vendor ranks, but we did not want to risk even the slightest appearance of a conflict of interest.) Then the group ranked everyone on the list from 1 to 5 (five being best) based on the following criteria:

  • The person's tangible track record of IT success;
  • The person's scope of influence beyond his or her own organization;
  • The individual's ability to effect change;
  • The person's level of engagement in developing today's emerging technologies; and
  • The return on technology investments in the person's company.

After the usual editorial wrangling and debate, intermingled with several rounds of voting, we came up with a ranked list of influential CIOs.

I hope you notice we're scrupulously avoiding the word "power." Some might argue the word applies; when the CIO of General Motors calls a vendor, you bet he carries weight. But any CIO smart enough to stay a CIO would wince at the word. CIOs are not demigods, and they don't use the royal "we"; they are part of an executive team and serve at the whim of the CEO and board of directors. And they depend on a capable IT staff and coterie of lieutenants to get the work done.

No, leave the word "power" to others. The words "influence" and "leadership" do just fine: The CIOs on this list have demonstrated both. A number of them—such as longtime Amazon.com CIO Rick Dalzell, the IT executive behind the company's amazing retail innovations—are such standouts as industry trendsetters that they also made our list of the 100 Most Influential People in IT.

Others are relative newcomers but still deserve to be on the list. Wal-Mart's Rollin Ford became CIO only in April 2006, but his role automatically places on his shoulders enormous influence due to his company's singular role as a retail technology leader. Don't overlook the fact that Ford's previous role was executive vice president of logistics and supply chain, which put him smack-dab in the middle of Wal-Mart's RFID (radio-frequency identification) efforts.

Influence can take the form of pioneering new technologies and management styles, as Lynne Ellyn of DTE Energy is doing with open source; setting their company's strategy, as General Electric's Gary Reiner does in his dual role of CIO and chief strategy officer; or, like Partners Healthcare Systems' John Glaser, inspiring and cooperating with other CIOs in their industry.

Nineteen percent of the CIOs on this list are women. That's well above the industry average—which is 11 percent, according to CIO Insight's 2007 CIO Role survey. They include two of the top 10 CIOs on our list: our top-ranked CIO, ExxonMobil Vice President of IT Patricia Hewlett, and, at No. 6, Barbra Cooper, group vice president and CIO of Toyota Motor Sales North America. That's a remarkable statement of the achievement and capabilities of women holding CIO roles, and we hope it encourages more women to join the IT profession and to strive to achieve leadership positions.

Twelve CIOs on our list come from the not-for-profit sector, including four from the federal government and three who work at major health care organizations. Two CIOs, Edward Granger-Happ and David Luce, have helped found uniquely technology-focused charities. Granger-Happ, CIO of Save the Children Foundation, is chairman and founder of NetHope, an organization made up of CIOs and chief technology officers from a host of charities that is working with Intel, Microsoft and other vendors to create technology that relief workers can use to help natural disaster victims. Luce left his post as CIO of The Rockefeller Group to become president of the SIM Foundation, the philanthropic wing of the Society for Information Management. There, Luce is advancing the IT profession by funding educational programs and research projects.

We hope you'll advance our research project and let us know what you think of our ratings and rankings, inclusions and exclusions. Maybe there's a Bill James out there. There's not much fun in putting together a list if there isn't a debate.

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