Who were the top technology users in 2006? Too often picking the top CIO, or CTO, or best user whatever the title becomes a popularity contest. Too often you end up finding a company that showed a lot of growth during the year and then picking the CIO from that company. But despite as much as we'd like to think otherwise, it is not always the company that makes the best technology choices that is the most successful. Those corporate items like the right product, the right marketing and the right sales channels weigh as much as creating a technology infrastructure that doesn't crash when you need it the most.
So, as 2006 concludes and 2007 begins, I thought I'd single out three technology users which I think are both top and also represent the next stage in making the right technological choices to support a business or government operation.
One. Technologists that think big about not just technology but the company as a whole. Greg Smith (and I'll admit right up front I know him not only as a business thinker but as a far better golfer than I am) wrote a book that came out last spring which should be required reading for all present or aspiring CIOs. The book, "Straight To The Top," - and no, I don't get a percentage for new sales - is at one level a trainging manual for the aspiring CIO, but at another level should be on the bookshelf of the CEO that wants to make sure his or her company hires the best CIO for the business. For a chief technology officer that knows how to meld technical understanding, business acumen, ethics and working with suppliers, customers and employees, the business opportunities are enormous in 2007. The CIO that doesn't understand the technology underpinnings of the company or doesn't think that understanding business strategies are important, the opportunity horizon stretches about as far as the next paycheck. Here is a link to a column I wrote about Greg and his book last spring.
Two. Technology managers that don't just transform their business, but transform an industry. For an example of this manager, I'd point to Houston Rockets Assistant General Manager Daryl Morey. Morey, who seems to be on track to succeed Rockets G.M. Carroll Dawson, next spring, was previously the Boston Celtics' senior vice president of operations and information. I interviewed Morey when he was at the Celtics and I came away convinced that the application of information technology to the sports business would restructure the sports world over the next several years. With sports salaries always on the increase 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. Here is a link to a feature I wrote about Morey and sports technology
Three. I don't have a name for this CIO, but I do have a place, or two. I'm thinking Iraq and Afghanistan. Whenever I talk with someone about IT disaster recovery or running a system under stress or building systems that can't fail, I think about the soldiers and servicemen and women running information systems in a warzone. Regardless of where you stand politically, I think you have to admire people who have built the networks that work during sandstorms, enemy attacks and 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, I'd like to hear from you. Here is a link to an earlier column I wrote about distance learning for soldiers in Iraq.