There has never been a more exciting time to be a technology leader, as the forces of innovation, virtualization, mobility and security reshape the future of just about every organization. Ask anyone who holds the job today.
But it's also one of the riskiest and most challenging times. The right IT strategy, leadership and innovation can catapult an organization's growth, while missteps can decimate its reputation and bottom line. Add to those demands the need for lightning speed and technical agility — and it's a wonder anyone would want the job.
Computerworld's 2016 Premier 100 Technology Leaders stand bravely at the nexus of change in their organizations. These 100 men and women, chosen by a panel of Computerworld editors and Premier 100 alumni, are masterfully maneuvering the shifts in IT. They thrive on change and are shaking up their organizations with digital technologies while building dynamic, talented teams to connect with customers and maximize innovation. Here are just a few of their stories.
Shifting from integration to differentiation
In the highly competitive pharmaceutical industry, Merck is doubling down on initiatives in analytics, enterprise systems and ecosystem-driven investments.
"Most things we developed in the past only touched Merck employees. Now and going forward, they are touched not only by employees, but by patients and scientists around the globe," says James Ciriello, associate vice president for IT planning and innovation at Merck.
To make progress in the three priority areas of analytics, enterprise systems and ecosystem-driven initiatives, Ciriello had to shake up the IT organization and attract new talent with fresh skills.
He first broke down dozens of IT silos in plants and labs worldwide and established three global IT hubs, in New Jersey, Prague and Singapore. The new setup allows him to standardize systems and processes, and it helps foster innovation. Prague, in particular, has become a greenfield of talent and now represents 25% of Merck's IT employee base. About 95% of the Prague employees are new to the company.
"It was important for us to attract people from a different dimension than what we were used to," Ciriello says. "We're an old biopharma company, and suddenly we're competing against Facebook and Google for people who do modeling simulation types of work." In Prague, Merck was able to recruit people with agile development skills, big data architecture experience and DevOps talent, as well as "people with Ph.D.s in user experience."
Today, Ciriello's biggest challenge is reconciling the old ways of doing business with the new. "We have a piece of our organization that understands how our company runs down to the minuscule level. They really understand how to make it reliable and secure," he says. "Then you have another part of our operation that's very new and perhaps wants to move more quickly in making those shifts." So far, Ciriello seems to be winning over executives who, when told what IT was doing, "only asked us to accelerate the process, and not slow it down," he adds.
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