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How one CIO navigated the path from sales to IT leader

Brian Watson | July 29, 2016
Anthem CIO Tom Miller says authenticity and his non-IT background make him a more effective CIO.

Long before Tom Miller became CIO of Anthem, the $79 billion healthcare giant, he led a sales team that, in 1990, had pulled off an improbable feat: selling an unprecedented 38,500 cases of Coca-Cola products in a day.

In one day, the team overcame a revenue shortfall for the year. But then came the really hard part. The warehouse team would have to work overnight to essentially empty their warehouses and deliver the products. Mind you, these were members of the Teamsters union, who typically worked at their own pace and clocked out at a set time.

Anthem CIO Tom Miller
Anthem CIO Tom Miller.

What happened next bolstered an innate but important attribute for Miller, and one that would play perhaps a bigger role than any other in a career ascendency that is as unique as it was unlikely: the importance of authenticity.

Fast forward to 10 the next morning. The trucks were loaded and ready to go. And there, sans tie, sleeves rolled up, was Miller, who had rallied the union workers and toiled with them through the night to hit the goal.

“That was one of those times when I think people realized I was willing to be real, treat them like peers, and help where help was needed,” Miller tells CIO.com. “To not think about myself, but to think about them and the company.”

Miller spent the first decade or so of his career in sales and general management roles with Coca-Cola, as he worked toward his undergraduate degree in computer systems. The company then asked him to be the business leader for a project to implement new systems for telesales and logistics in Michigan. After a successful deployment, Miller led a nationwide effort to do the same.

From there, he rose the ranks in IT, combining his business acumen and technology education. That one-two punch was so valuable to the company that Miller, after earning his executive MBA, was put on the fast track. Not long after, he served abroad as CIO of Coca-Cola’s Greater Europe Group, followed by a stint as CIO of the company’s European bottling organization.

When he returned to the U.S., he rose to become CIO of North America, and then CIO of Coca-Cola Refreshments, the company-owned U.S. bottler.

As he climbed the ladder, Miller came to realize that not “growing up” in IT became his best asset as a CIO.

Reshaping Anthem’s IT

The ability to communicate. A perspective of what matters. A laser focus on customers. Confidence.

These are some of the key attributes of the modern-day CIO, particularly in this “digital” era marked both by astonishing advancements in IT offerings and a tidal wave of demands from business partners for IT to be faster and more responsive (especially when it comes to clients or customers) not to mention simpler and more innovative.

 

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