Innovation Across Borders

IT can play a critical part in the innovation process in any organization. But at many companies, the links between IT and innovation often prove elusive. Not so in the case of Credit Suisse and its CIO, Tom Sanzone.

Sanzone joined the company in 2005. He came to Credit Suisse from Citigroup, where he was CIO for the corporate and investment banking and private client business, as well as the global transaction services business. In this role he headed CIB Tech Services, responsible for the strategy, development and implementation of all application technology. He was also responsible for the area’s technical infrastructure.

Sanzone is a true believer in the benefits of IT in supporting innovation. Contributing Editor Karen Sobel-Lojeski recently sat down with Sanzone to learn how, by driving innovation through Credit Suisse and beyond, he is succeeding and outperforming the competition.

CIO Insight: What is your vision for driving innovation and transforming IT organizations?

Sanzone:IT plays a key role in the innovation space from a number of perspectives. We work in partnership with the [Credit Suisse] businesses that we support, providing products, software and services that can be used to drive business. So when we’re working with traders, we’re developing innovative trading platforms and analytical models and capabilities that can give them a competitive advantage in the marketplace versus the competition.

Technology can also drive innovation in the way we work, even in our operating models. Technology innovation is really enabling the virtual workforce, changing the traditional models of how people work and interact as part of a team. Today, teams often span continents, working on the same project or on the same deliverable. Professionals from multiple countries and cultures are brought together for a project, and the glue that binds them and makes them efficient in their collaboration is technology.

So IT can bring that dimension to the business, and we continue to evolve and create more and more opportunity. For example, I have desktop video in my office, which has really improved my ability to manage over great distances. I have direct reports who are in Asia and Europe, and, frankly, being able to see each other on the screen and talk and read body language versus just being on the phone makes a huge difference in our communication and in our ability to build our relationship.

Technology also innovates in transforming traditional operating models, and not only within IT, but in the businesses as well. It changes the way businesses deploy resources around the globe. We’re seeing pretty significant shifts in traditional operating models, and over the next few years, some of them will be completely reinvented. Could you give an example?

Take IT. Up until a few years back, we had a model where a team supported a business. That business was located in one of the major financial centers, whether it was New York, Zurich or London. And that team was all together.

But now we’re starting to deconstruct a project into its different components, and each component has a place where it’s best implemented or built. If you take software for example, the team may now look like the following: The designers and analysts are in New York working with the traders; the coding may be done in India; the testing could be done out of a Center of Excellence in Singapore. So the project is now broken down into distinct parts. You have to ask: “Where and how will we achieve the best value for this piece of work?” Now, instead of using a generalized, front-to-back approach, we’re looking to disassemble these projects and put each stage in the right location where we have the right skills.

That has taken us from a physical team to a virtual team. In addition, we’re starting to make better decisions from a value-chain perspective about where things should be done, and why. Now when you deconstruct that project and create that virtual team, what pulls it all together is the technology, because these various units and teams around the world have to feel like they’re part of one unified team. They have to have efficient communication and adapt to change quickly. What makes that possible is the technology that connects them globally.

Next page: What are the challenges with the distributed model?

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