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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.

That just scratches the surface in terms of the operational improvements Quinlan’s team drove to the field. What’s more important was the end result: the careful, deliberate creation of a true technology culture within Deloitte—and a wholly new reputation for the IT organization.

And those nasty emails? No more. Instead, Quinlan now hears from appreciative employees from across the company—and when they need help with a problem, it’s almost as if they apologize for asking.

That’s not to say Quinlan didn’t make more wholesale changes inside his IT organization, but he emphasizes those operational improvements as being big credibility boosters. “The ugly truth is, a CIO in any organization needs to choose,” Quinlan said. “But having, I believe, an additional set of supporters provides the ability for a CIO to change the way he or she is viewed, and that, to me, is strategic, because what you find at the leadership table is really how you’re viewed is how your contribution is viewed.” 

When it comes to sharing ideas with the employee base, Quinlan downplays the idea of preaching his own vision. He talks strategy in executive committee meetings and town halls with his IT organization, but to his “power base,” he tells them what they want to hear.

Among other modes of communication, Quinlan sends out a monthly newsletter called CIO Corner. In it, he and his team convey information about tools and technologies that will help those in the field do their job better. “They read about things like the iPhone, a new mobile app that provides new service for them—anything that people believe, ‘This is good for me,’ that’s what they latch onto. Anything that smacks of, ‘This is good for the CIO,’ no way.”

We’re uniquely positioned (to add strategic value)—as long as we don’t think we’re uniquely positioned to do it alone. - Larry Quinlan

That’s a pretty clear illustration of Quinlan’s modus operandi: it’s not about him. Born and raised in Jamaica, Quinlan often reflects on the numerous times in his career journey where others have helped him through guidance or opening doors.

And he carries that with him in his role today. “We’re uniquely positioned (to add strategic value)—as long as we don’t think we’re uniquely positioned to do it alone,” he said. “It absolutely requires working with lots of others, which is harder, but that’s the way it works.”

 

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