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Deloitte CIO finds strategic value in IT's 'sacred' obligation

Dan Roberts and Brian P. Watson | Nov. 25, 2015
How often do you meet a CIO who has the strategic seat at the table and can also drill down deep on operational issues? Deloitte CIO Larry Quinlan is that rare executive.

Larry Quinlan - CIO Confessions

When Larry Quinlan assumed the CIO seat at Deloitte, he, like so many incoming leaders, got a bunch of nasty emails.

Some highlighted problems IT had —and problems that IT hadn’t fixed. Others hit closer to home, aimed directly at him and his predecessors.

Like many of the IT leaders we profiled in Confessions of a Successful CIO, Quinlan had a lot of work to do to build his organization’s credibility. But in the sprawling professional services firm that is Deloitte, Quinlan had to take some unique approaches.

And how he did it shines a light on how an IT leader can make difference in a highly complex environment.

Over time, we’ve seen a clear dividing line between great CIOs and the rest: the truly strategic leaders, and the others, who tend to wear their technical backgrounds like a badge of honor and focus on the little things that keep an IT organization humming.

Call it keeping the lights on. Say it’s a focus on tactics. But how often do you meet a CIO who has the strategic seat at the table and can also drill down deep on operational issues?

Quinlan is a rare executive who straddles both of those elements of IT leadership. He’s a strategic player for the $35 billion professional services firm, but he embraces the idea of focusing heavily on the operations of his IT organization—and can justify that focus as being a cornerstone of his larger strategy.

“That is a truly important, even sacred, obligation. It’s part of what we do. It’s not something to shy away from and say, ‘I’m a strategic CIO—I don’t do those things,’” Quinlan told us. “To me, a strategic CIO is strategic on the foundation of trains running on time and having a well-run organization. We strive for that.”

To me, a strategic CIO is strategic on the foundation of trains running on time and having a well-run organization. We strive for that. - Larry Quinlan

Deloitte, essentially, is in the people business. With more than 220,000 employees around the world providing consulting, advisory, tax and audit services to numerous industries, talent is a strategic differentiator. To Quinlan, the massive constituency of on-the-ground consultants and advisors is also a power base.

And that power base needed help with everything from better mobile technology to collaboration and administrative tools. On mobile, Quinlan and his team made significant investments in new devices, as well as tools for anytime, anywhere access. They developed new social and knowledge sharing portals to benefit not only employees, but clients. And they created more than 250 mobile apps for travel planning, time and expense recording, and more.

 

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