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CIOs band together to lift Michigan's fortunes

Julia King | May 6, 2014
Three years ago, when David Behen signed on as the state of Michigan's CIO at the age of 42, he knew he didn't have all the knowledge or experience he would need to do the job. So he did what he says any good leader would do -- he asked for help.

"The CISO Cabinet gave us the opportunity to learn from each other. I learned from Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Detroit and others," says Dan Lohrmann, chief security officer for the Michigan state government. "We toured each other's facilities and saw how each other ran security operations. In this group there is a lot of trust. By and large, there has been a real freedom of sharing."

"The good thing about all of this is no matter how large or small the members, we all have similar problems," says Behen. "The diversity of thought and in the way we all do things is of immeasurable value. The cyber disruption plan would never have been created if this group didn't come together on it."

Open for Ideas

Members say open-mindedness and adaptability are keys to gleaning the greatest benefits from their discussions.

Today's meeting is a prime example. Many of the CIOs seated around the large conference table can't implement a bonus program or take their teams to Las Vegas, but they have adapted some of Quicken Loans' practices to suit their own organizations.

Oakland County Deputy Executive and CIO Phil Bertolini, for example, has reworked project management schedules to include lots of creative time as a way to provide county IT employees with opportunities to innovate freely.

It's one thing to sit in your office and bury yourself in day-to-day work, but the real value and the wins come from reaching out to people across industries who are doing a like function and learn from them.

Phil Bertolini, Deputy Executive And CIO, Oakland County

At BorgWarner, an automotive components supplier, CIO Jamal Farhat, another cabinet member, has instituted innovation awards for IT employees. Daniel Rainey, IT director and CIO for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, is revamping job titles and classifications within his organization so that they are more in line with IT positions in the private sector.

Subra Sripada, CIO at $2.3 billion Beaumont Health System, has instituted customized career maps for individual IT employees as a retention tool. That way, staffers can see future opportunities within the healthcare provider, he says.

"It's one thing to sit in your office and bury yourself in day-to-day work, but the real value and the wins come from reaching out to people across industries who are doing a like function and learn from them," says Bertolini.

That includes competitors. The key is sticking to noncompetitive issues that affect everyone, says member Steve Pickett, CIO at Penske, a $4 billion transportation company that competes with $6 billion Ryder System, whose vice president and CIO, Greg Knott, is also a member of the cabinet.

 

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