CIO Straight Talk - Issue 4 - 9
innovative ideas get a well-defined test and do not affect
ongoing work, and that lessons are analyzed quickly to
identify the next step.
3. Cut time spent "keeping the lights on"
How do you make time for experimentation? As the
pointy-haired boss in a Dilbert cartoon tells his team, "If
you come up with a good idea, I'll let you take on the
project in addition to your existing work." But according
to the CIOs we talked to, it is possible to find ways to
channel the energies of IT staff beyond day-to-day work.
One approach is to take a close look at routine and
time-consuming tasks. Ed Jurica notes that his organization set a goal of reducing by 10% the time and effort it
would devote to production support, thereby freeing up
15 FTEs for work that could generate more business
value. "If it's a tedious task that has to be done over and
over again," he says, "perhaps a small investment in a
tool or developing a utility in-house could alleviate the
time spent on it."
Issac Sacolick has also found ways to separate ongoing support from experimental and innovative development work, directing a lot of routine maintenance work
to outsourcing partners. In addition to using "spikes,"
discussed above, he dedicates small groups for four to
eight weeks to larger experimental projects. "I make
these opportunities very transparent," he says, "creating
in the process a culture of innovation. I make it transparent because you don't know who is going to respond to it
in your group and because you want to use the opportunity to find business sponsors who want to get involved."
4. Adopt a few digital natives
Once you make time for experimentation and innovation, what are some of the sources of new ideas? It
may be worthwhile to think about this in demographic terms. Here are some fairly well known statistics: The median age at Google is 29; at Facebook, it's 28.
These companies are leading indicators for the changing
face of the global workforce over the next decade. In the
U.S., where the overall median age of workers is 42.3,
there are an estimated 80 million young Americans who
belong to the so-called millennial generation, roughly
ages 18 to 35. By next year, millennials are expected to
constitute 36% of the U.S. workforce, and by 2020, they
will account for nearly half of all workers.
Scott Blanchette has seen this demographic shift in
action: "A big percentage of our workforce, especially the
clinical workforce - nurses and doctors - are very
young. They are not technologists, but they have a
tremendous portfolio of technical competencies that we
want to tap into, because they are always finding new
ways to solve old problems."
Many CIOs are not targeting young professionals who
were "baptized in technology," Blanchette notes, in large
part because of structured R&D approaches, which are
hierarchical in nature. "But we spend a lot of our time and
effort tapping into the power of the base of the
pyramid."In addition to offering innovative ideas on how
The six senior IT leaders we interviewed for this
article have among them at least 120 years of
experience, mostly in managing IT operations and
innovation in a variety of industries and types of
Ann Alrich is the former CIO of Asia-Paciﬁc and
various business units at DuPont, one of the world's
largest chemical companies, which is headquartered
in Wilmington, Delaware.
Scott Blanchette is Senior Vice President and CIO of
Vanguard Health Systems, an operator of hospitals
and other medical facilities in ﬁve U.S. states. The
company, which recently agreed to be acquired by
Tenet Healthcare, also an operator of hospitals, is
headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ed Jurica is former Senior Vice President and CIO of
Fossil, a global design, marketing, and distribution
company that specializes in consumer fashion
accessories, with more than 400 retail and 4,000
wholesale locations worldwide. It is headquartered in
Alexandre Kozlov is CIO of the Extruded Products
Division at Norsk Hydro, a global supplier of
aluminum with activities throughout the value chain,
from bauxite extraction to the production of rolled
and extruded aluminum products and building
systems. It is headquartered in Oslo, Norway.
Isaac Sacolick is CIO at McGraw Hill Construction,
which provides data, news, and intelligence to
construction professionals. It is based in New York.
Stephen Thurlbeck is Vice President of R&D at
Complete Innovations, a leading global provider of
mission-critical ﬂeet, asset, and mobile workforce
management solutions. It is based in Markham,
13 CIO Straight Talk