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CIOs boost their careers doing double duty

Julia King | Sept. 1, 2015
Many CIOs find it exhilarating to take on business functions outside of IT. But CIO-plus roles require a new mindset and trusted deputies.

Mike Capone, former CIO and head of product development at ADP, says managing diverse people was one of his greatest challenges--and most rewarding lessons--at the financial services company.

“As you get out of more traditional IT and into product management, you have to manage differently. It stretched me a little bit,” says Capone, who is now COO at Medidata Solutions.

For example, he explains, “when you think about core IT, results are typically black and white. Was the system up and running? Did the project end on time?” But Capone says he has learned that you can’t apply that same thinking and management style to, say, a data science team. “They’d constantly remind me that this is a science and not about outcomes,” he recalls. “They had to remind me that they had to test data and experiment with it. It’s the same with user experience teams. They do a lot of experimentation and iterations. It changes the way you think about the world.”

Anne Ayer, CIO and vice president of corporate development at paper company Sappi North America, came to her CIO-plus role as an experienced business executive who was open to learning about technology.

“My background had really been on the strategy and corporate development side before joining Sappi,” Ayer says. “CIO was something the CEO asked me to take on. In my prior experience working in consulting, I had some clients on the high-tech side and in my time at Sappi I had been involved in projects that had a strong IT component, but I’m definitely not a technologist by training or background.”

So she redefined the technology side of her role to one of translator, she says.

“I spend a lot of time focusing on business value and helping the [IT] group articulate what the business opportunities are, whether they’re working on a road map for applications, or infrastructure, or investment opportunities, or cybersecurity risks,” Ayer says. “We want to make sure these things are articulated so the business can understand the cost, benefit and risk, and make the right decisions.”

There’s no such thing as a typical day, Ayer says. “The functions cycle differently. Corporate development can have peaks and valleys, depending on the deals and opportunities we’re looking at. But IT does have an operational day-to-day management of an organization, the control framework and project portfolio and people,” she says. “It is a lot of management-oriented stuff.”

Like virtually every other CIO-plus, she says the only way to function effectively and avoid burnout is to rely on--and empower--her talented team. “There’s a huge amount of delegating,” she says. “We have people working at a very strong level of capability and accountability. It is a lot to juggle though.”


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