The One-Percent Solution
Looking for some inspiration lately? We were, and so we decided to search out a few truly outstanding IT leaders who are out there quietly doing some great stuff.
- By Linda Briggs
Looking for some inspiration lately? We were, and so we decided to search out a few truly outstanding IT leaders who are out there quietly doing some great stuff. Our criteria: We wanted to show you IT executives who'd earned their cleats on big, enterprise-scale projects; managers who were really making a difference in their organizations. Just as important, we were looking for thinkers, people with distinct ideas about how technology should work—and a willingness to share those views.
The result isn't a list of flashy leaders of high-profile corporations that we read about constantly—the Oracles, Dells, Suns and Microsofts of the world. Rather, we offer you studies in what hard work, thoughtful approaches and wise leadership can produce elsewhere.
The preceding qualities have never been more needed in business—and perhaps especially in IT departments at large companies, as enterprises grow increasingly more complex while budgets crumble and layoffs grow—and as we enter ever more uncertain economic times.
With all that in mind, we present our initial list of IT Inspirations, beginning on page 30: seven individuals that we think offer tangible proof that the world of high-tech continues to attract some of the brightest and most talented leaders working in business today.
But our list of seven is just the beginning. We know that there are many others out there who are every bit as qualified for inclusion—we just need to hear about them from you. To keep you inspired, we're launching a monthly feature in January that will profile an IT leader each month.
Long-time technology writer and editor Bob Mueller, who conducted all the interviews for this piece, suggests that if you look between the lines of the profiles, you'll see some trends. A decade ago, he hypothesizes, calling IT spending "strategic" probably meant you couldn't justify it financially. That's changed, he notes. "Nearly all of the seven people I interviewed for this piece stress technology's role in support of organizational strategies." As several of the interviews point out, technology responded to specific problems in the past—it was, in other words, tactical. Today's IT leadership stresses the importance of aligning IT with business goals, supporting and sometimes even leading big changes in organizational processes and practices. As our cover subject, Tom Nealon, currently serving as CIO of BMC Software, puts it, "Every topic now is an IT topic; any business strategy needs to be executed through an IT set of skills."
As IT's purpose is changing, so is its leadership. Not one of our seven IT leaders was originally trained in computer science. Three are MBAs. Two are PhDs, one in applied mathematics, the other in industrial engineering. One has a background in Talmudic law. Another started out in Air Force avionics—computer-related, to be sure, but a long way from the Windows 2000 networking jobs he's doing now. Although all are in close touch with technology, none of the seven is a code-pounder, and most never were.
Thomas Edison famously suggested that genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. Here's that first percent to get you started; the rest is up to you. Are you inspired by someone you work with? Send me your own nomination at Lbriggs@esj.com.
Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.