5 CIOs on Surviving at the TopBy Kim S. Nash | Posted 08-13-2007
5 CIOs on Surviving at the Top
The CIOs on...
The CIOs on...
How to say
What's the best way to say "no" to someone?
You really have to be sure that saying "no" is the right answer, particularly if it's a strategic issue. I worry more about what we're doing, if we're doing the right thing, to position ourselves for the future. If the call is mine, then it's first about being open and objective and really understanding the benefits, costs, risks and alternatives.
If a business partner is making the call, we try to be very proactive about our views. But in the end, they make the call. We don't want to be just order-takers but when a decision is made, and you didn't like it, it doesn't matter. You make it a success.
I make it simple. I think, "What do I shut down that I don't need because now I need another thing?" You've got to get the monkey off the CIO's back. It's easy for business people to call up the CIO and beat them up.
You never say no. If you have list of priorities that your department has agreed on, then it's not saying no but agreeing to say yes to something else.
Smile while you're doing it.
Interacting with the board
What are your board's major concerns on IT projects?
At PNC, interaction with the board is regular and frequent. In the fall, we had a full board meeting entirely on emerging-technology trends, and how PNC is competitively positioned in each business segment.
You know those Consumer Reports ratings--the little circles filled in all black or half black? We did those to assess where we think we are and how each business unit is positioned against trends in the industry 12 months and three years out. Where do we need to make investments to compete? It was a very, very detailed update with the board. I had all my major technology leaders--CIOs for various businesses, head of shared services infrastructure, our payment guru, people who we'd call leaders of e-commerce. We took them through a 3 1/2-hour meeting on what's happening.
At one of the board meetings every year, we would go through the upcoming budget. Any major project over a certain amount, the board had to approve. You did have to give regular updates. I remember we presented a major project that was very, very large and the board asked us to break it down into subcomponents and come back to them for funding on each component after we finished the previous one.
Those projects may be featured in the business plan and reviewed once or twice a year by the board. Progress is updated, but in terms of the overall project plan, not just technology.
Using money to motivate
How do you tie rewards and compensation for your people to the success of IT?
Most companies have a range of tools--bonuses for extraordinarily well-done work, perhaps stock options. Some or all of these are used to reward individuals on particularly high-risk or critical projects that have to be delivered on time with exceptional results. You may use retention bonuses or stock options so they don't jump ship. But if most people are working on projects they're excited by, they are excited not by the monetary element but by the desire to do something that hasn't been done before or to beat the competition.
That's a stronger driver for IT leaders. The compensation element is something to make a company feel more secure.
Each individual has a one- or two-page road map of expectations and personal development goals per year, such as mentoring with people in the business or going for an M.B.A. We're trying to rotate IT people so they understand more of the business and aren't stuck in one job. We review that map twice a year and measure success of project implementations--the timing, cost of the project, ROI, [whether it was] successful from a business point of view.
We go through an objective-setting exercise. I come out with high-level objectives for my whole group. My direct reports will tie their objectives to mine and they get more granular. But they're completely tied to compensation and bonuses.
From a non-monetary perspective, the biggest way to reward employees is to say "thank you" and say it in public. I like to play golf. I get invited to different golf tournaments. What I usually do is try to give four employees an opportunity to play golf. Or I buy tickets to other sports. That's an effective gesture because it's unexpected.
Playing a role outside
For those of you still in straight CIO roles, how involved do you get in operations?
The most important thing a CTO or CIO can have is an understanding of operations. Having P&L experience is one of the best ways to truly understand the business and customer needs. IT is not the main product of the company--its purpose is to deliver products to customers. My responsibility is also strategic sourcing, IT and engineering and supply chain. I'm constantly looking for different ways to apply technology to our businesses.
Other than technology stuff, I'm responsible for facilitating the strategic plan. Organizing that. I have responsibility for the project office. We call it the "project support group" for IT projects. Also, I'm responsible for process--re-engineering process, creating repeatable processes. We're staffing up on that now.
is the former chief information officer of First Data, a $7.1 billion financial services firm. He is now president of Western Union Financial Services, which First Data spun out in 2006.
is president of global technology and operations at MasterCard, the $3.3 billion credit-card company.
is chief technology officer of Lennox International, a $3.7 billion manufacturer. She is also executive vice president of supply chain and logistics.
is chief information officer of PNC Financial Services, an $11.1 billion financial services firm. He is also chairman and CEO of PFPC, a PNC unit that provides technology services to other investment companies.
is chief information officer of Nash Finch, a $4.6 billion distributor.
How this feature was
How this feature was put together
The five technology executives who appear in this feature were interviewed separately, via phone, in early June. CIO Insight's sister publication Baseline has edited their responses and grouped them into the virtual roundtable that appears here.