Three CIOs Who Get It

Opinion: A grasp of the big picture and an ability to handle hurdles are key.

Who were the top technology users in 2006? Too often, picking the best CIO, chief technology officer or user (whatever the title) becomes a popularity contest. You end up finding a company that showed a lot of growth during the year and then picking the CIO from that company.

But as much as wed like to think otherwise, the company that makes the best technology choices is not always the one thats the most successful. Building a solid strategic foundation that comprises the right product, the right marketing plan and the right sales channels is as important as creating a technology infrastructure that doesnt crash when you need it the most.

So, as 2006 concludes and 2007 begins, I thought Id single out examples of three types of technologists who I think are both tops in the game and also represent the next stage in making the right technological choices to support a business or government operation.

No. 1: Technologists who think big about not just technology but also the company as a whole. Greg Smith (and I admit I know him not only as a business thinker but also as a far better golfer than I am), CIO of the World Wildlife Fund and an eWEEK Corporate Partner, wrote a book that was published in April and should be required reading for all present or aspiring CIOs. The book, "Straight to the Top: Becoming a World-Class CIO," (and, no, I dont get a percentage for new sales) is, at one level, a training manual for the aspiring CIO and, at another level, a book for the CEO who wants to make sure his or her company hires the best CIO for the business.

For CTOs who know how to meld technical understanding, business acumen and ethics, as well as how to work with suppliers, customers and employees, the business opportunities are enormous in 2007. For the CIO who doesnt understand the technology underpinnings of the company or doesnt think that understanding business strategies are important, the opportunity horizon stretches about as far as the next paycheck.

No. 2: Technologists who transform not only their business but also an industry. For an example, look to Houston Rockets Assistant General Manager Daryl Morey. Morey, who seems to be on track to succeed Rockets GM Carroll Dawson next spring, was previously the Boston Celtics senior vice president of operations and information.

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I interviewed Morey when he was with the Celtics, and I came away convinced that the application of IT to the sports business would restructure the sports world over the next several years. With sports salaries always rising and sports revenues needing to keep pace, the ability to find the best player for a particular team, make the venue operate at its most profitable margin and make the games available to the widest audience in the most financially strong manner have become the gauges of what sets apart an average sports franchise from a standout.

Morey is an example of someone who has taken what he has learned as a technology manager to change the business world in which he operates.

No. 3: I dont have anyones name in mind for this type of technologist, but Im thinking of a couple of places—Iraq and Afghanistan.

Whenever I talk with someone about IT disaster recovery, running a system under stress or building systems that cant fail, I think about the servicemen and servicewomen running information systems in a war zone. Regardless of where you stand politically, I think you have to admire people who have built networks that work during sandstorms and enemy attacks and that continue to run in some of the most inhospitable conditions possible. The ability to keep information systems running day after day in a war zone has a lot to teach all of us about overcoming the daily issues technologists face in planning for hurricanes, electrical outages or malicious intent.

If anyone has some names and stories to share, Id like to hear from you.

Editorial Director Eric Lundquist can be reached at

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To hear a discussion between Eric Lundquist and Greg Smith, click on this link to Erics UpFront podcast.

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eWEEK magazine editor in chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at

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