Anna Frazzetto's Blog

Digital Innovations and Technology Solutions

CA/Silicon Valley Lessons: CIOs Share their Wisdom

My IT leadership tour of the country has continued into summer, and the most recent stop was on June 23rd in Mountain View, CA. In Silicon Valley, at the center of the Tech World, a panel of four, and 50 CIO/IT Executives gathered to discuss leadership, strategy, technology challenges and opportunities of greatest importance in these unique economic times.

From the very moment we began the discussion with the panel, I was impressed and thrilled by the intensity at the panelists' table and the engaged atmosphere throughout the room.

CIO Forum 2009
Recent news reports have been somewhat optimistic about a pending economic turnaround. However, the CIO attendees aren't banking on a quick recovery. The discussion focused on new ways to operate and innovate going forward. These leaders discussed the need for their teams to embrace increasing levels of individual responsibility with flat or reduced staff.
Below, I've summarized valuable wisdom from the event for IT excellence from California-based IT leaders.

5 Key Points

Be Strategic in Your Pursuit of Efficiency.

All of the Silicon Valley CIO panelists were not surprised that cost efficiency was the number one priority as reported by the Harvey Nash-PA Consulting IT Leadership Survey. Panelists also agreed with the survey that increasing efficiency ranked equally high in the list of initiatives.

The panel's counsel was to look at efficiency and spending strategically.

CIO Forum 2009 Panel
For example, the goal is not to merely reduce spending, but to ensure the value gained from investments is clearly measurable. It's not about the spend, explained one of the CIO panelists, it's about the ROI. True efficiency, according to this panel, is gained by ensuring your investments and spending can always be tied to business performance and results.

Encourage and Fuel Innovation.
As CIOs interacting closely with structured Hi-Tech R&D and Engineering departments, these leaders were adamant that IT needs to also be methodical in their pursuit of innovation. One leader highlighted the reverse engineering process commonly used by their Engineering counterparts as an example of how to generate ideas and foster ingenuity in IT.

Another panelist discussed building an innovation/vision team from within the IT department and giving it the mission of gathering, analyzing and delivering innovative ideas to the broader organization. It was also suggested that IT leaders train themselves to act as Chief "Innovation" Officers whose mission it is to deliver technology solutions that translate into business success and enhanced organizational performance. And while there were many other suggestions offered for nurturing innovation, the central point remained: pursue innovation with dedication, structure, methodology and an open mind.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive.
CIOs and IT leaders should not wait for directives from the business. Instead IT leaders need to be at the decision-making table helping business leaders tackle business goals and issues with technology. According to the panel, one important way for IT leaders to become more proactive is to strengthen their knowledge of the business and relationships with business leaders. The better insight a CIO has into business operations and challenges, the more effective he/she will be in enabling the business to overcome obstacles and seize new opportunities.

Do More with the Same.
The IT leaders in this panel were certain that a new era of strategic hiring within IT is upon us. While the panel advised the audience that smaller IT teams were likely the way of the future, it also placed much emphasis on the importance of hiring techno-functional professionals who are highly business savvy. One panelist validated this evolution, by citing the increased number of MBAs on their team. In summary, extensive knowledge of business operations will be essential for IT leaders and teams in the years ahead.

Outsource: Master and Manage.
Outsourcing and efficiency often go together, but not always. The California CIOs counseled the audience to remember that outsourcing and offshoring are not always the right solution for a business challenge. In fact, the panel shared examples of when outsourcing is the wrong option, especially if your team hasn't already mastered the function internally. To manage an outsourcing engagement effectively, your team should have performed the function successfully, otherwise it will be difficult to properly manage an outsourcing vendor. While the panelists encouraged smart outsourcing strategies, the challenge is to remember that outsourcing is only one of many options that must be weighed as the business seeks greater efficiency, working with the same or fewer resources.

CIO Forum 2009
I want to thank the four engaging CIOs who joined Harvey Nash and PA Consulting for this intense and thoughtful look at IT leadership and strategies for success. These insights from our tenured Silicon Valley panelists proved to be highly beneficial for those in attendance.

CA/Silicon Valley CIO Panel
Debra Martucci, CIO, Synopsys
Glenn Noga, CIO, Polycom
Mike Vedda, CIO, Affymetrix
Tom Bakewell, CIO, Riverbed Technology