When he’s not immersed in cybersecurity, hybrid cloud strategy, or app modernization, David Reis, CIO at the University of Miami Health System and the Miller School of Medicine, spends his time working with the board of directors and top leadership to reimagine healthcare and take the lead driving digital transformation.

A business objective to “arrive” more patients per hour or the CEO’s desire to leverage historical data to predict future patient volume and revenue doesn’t start with a technology discussion or spoon-feed IT a particular business strategy to execute. Today, Reis and his team are early-stage partners with the business to ideate new digital strategies aimed at keeping the healthcare provider at the forefront of patient experience and care, safety, and innovation.

“In these discussions, we didn’t talk about phones, infrastructure, servers, computers, or storage — all the things people expect with IT,” Reis says. “IT is now thought of as a partner and brought in much sooner in the overall rethinking of business processes rather than coming in at the end to digitize workflows.”

David Reis, CIO, University of Miami Health System and Miller School of Medicine

University of Miami Health System and Miller School of Medicine

Despite another year dominated by a transformation agenda and getting digital operations in order, CIOs like Reis are finding their footing as an invaluable strategic partner and resource for the business. According to the 2023 State of the CIO research, which surveyed 837 IT leaders and 201 line of business (LOB) participants, functional and transformational work consumed the bulk of IT leaders’ time this year, much the same as 2022.

Eighty-four percent of respondents were immersed in basic functional tasks such as security management (47%), improving IT operations and systems performance (40%), and cost control and expense management (28%). IT leaders were equally committed to transformation work (83%), including modernizing infrastructure and applications (35%), aligning IT initiatives with business goals (38%), cultivating the IT/business partnership (31%), and directing change efforts (28%).

Foundry / CIO.com

While far fewer (61%) cited business strategist responsibilities as the year’s primary charter, many, like Reis, are already well-established and sought-after strategy leaders, continuing to mature their influence going forward. At the same time, the majority of 2023 State of the CIO respondents (71%) also anticipate greater immersion in business strategy over the next three years. With technology at the epicenter of all aspects of modern business, IT leaders fully expect their remit to include actively driving business innovation, developing and refining business strategy, and identifying opportunities for competitive differentiation.

Kevin Gray, CIO, City of Burbank, Calif.

City of Burbank, Calif.

“The CIO role today is really a business leadership role that is not necessarily focused on technology — technology is just part and parcel of what we do every day,” says Kevin Gray, CIO for the City of Burbank, Calif. “We are helping form strategy for our organizations, laying out roadmaps, and developing policy in ways we didn’t in the past. A CIO or CTO who wakes up thinking about technology is thinking about the wrong things.”

Foundry / CIO.com

CIOs’ leadership stature matures

This year’s focus on IT transformation and modernization hasn’t diluted demand for CIO leadership. More than half of respondents to the 2023 State of the CIO survey (55%) said they proactively identify business opportunities and make recommendations regarding technology and provider selections while 23% said they advise on business need, technology choices, and providers.

As in prior years, the CIO role continues to be more digital- and innovation-focused — a trend cited by 85% of IT leaders participating in this year’s survey. Not only are CIOs involved in digital transformation — the majority of 2023 survey respondents maintain CIOs are more likely to lead digital transformation efforts compared to their business leader counterparts — a scenario cited by 84% of IT leaders along with nearly three quarters (72%) of LOB participants.

Foundry / CIO.com

CIOs’ mounting credibility as a lever for business transformation is also being recognized on a broader scale, even as IT leaders are wrapped up with modernization efforts and operationalizing the technology investments that were accelerated these past few years. Eighty-five percent of respondents said they view the CIO role as a changemaker, slightly higher than last year.


of CIOs agree that the CIO is becoming a changemaker, increasingly leading business and technology initiatives

At the same time, CIOs continue to forge strong relationships with other influencers in the executive ranks: Seventy-seven percent of 2023 State of the CIO respondents have cultivated a strong educational partnership with the CEO and board of directors. Nearly half (49%) of IT leaders participating in this year’s research report directly to the CEO, and CIOs themselves have retained oversight of some of the newer C-level positions. For example, among the 2023 State of the CIO survey base, many chief data officers (53%) and chief digital officers (42%) now come under the CIO management umbrella. Chief security officers and chief analytics officers are also more likely to report into IT leadership.

Foundry / CIO.com

In a similar vein, IT retains direct control over a good portion of the IT budget at most companies — on average, around 43.5% — with respondents expecting that ratio to tick up to about 50% over the next three years. In keeping with the reporting structures, CIOs are commanding oversight of budgets allocated to some of the newer executive titles: Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed said the CTO budget was factored into overall technology expenditures under CIO management while half said the same of the chief digital officer budget. A much higher number, 63%, confirmed chief data officer expenses came under the CIO and IT department’s remit.

While CIO’s leadership stature and immersion in the business has been steadily growing for some time, ongoing economic uncertainty, the vast potential of emerging technologies to transform business, and the lingering halo effects from CIOs’ widely heralded pandemic performance have underscored the significance of the role when it comes to business strategy. Specifically, the level of transformation during the pandemic was unrivaled compared to prior periods, and the business strategies and foundational platforms put in place call for IT leadership to promote broad adoption and oversee continuous care and feeding, says JP Saini, chief digital & technology officer at Sunbelt Rentals, a global player in the equipment rental market.

JP Saini, chief digital and technology officer, Sunbelt Rentals

Sunbelt Rentals

“It’s about how to maintain the edge we created with the business strategies we implemented,” Saini says. “Unlike prior years, where you launch something big and the next refresh cycle is three to four years out, there’s now a continued value creation formula for digital transformation that happens year over year.”

What’s on the 2023 docket

Sunbelt Rentals’ 2023 roadmap calls for evolving its digital platforms in areas such as omnichannel ecommerce, dynamic pricing, service, supply chain, and warehouse management. The company is also investing in new collaboration technologies and Zero Trust initiatives to fully empower its employees for hybrid work, no matter where they are and on whatever device they are working from, Saini says.

The digital transformation and technology organizations used to operate on two parallel tracks. Today, they’ve been consolidated into a single group reporting to Saini to accelerate delivery of systems that drive business strategy forward. “We’re now one group that handles initiatives from start to finish because time was of the essence,” he explains. “Whatever launches in terms of ecommerce, if you don’t have a good roadmap to keep ahead of competitors, the value is eroded.”

At insurance company The Hartford, the technology initiatives and business strategies that are on tap for 2023 are one and the same, according to Deepa Soni, the company’s CIO. Cloud deployment, AI, analytics, a modern data ecosystem, and digitization of more business processes are at the top of the agenda to simplify interactions for customers, brokers, and agents and to bring the power of digital tools to employees. For example, underwriters used to toggle between nearly a dozen tools to get their job done — today they use one streamlined tool with all relevant information at their fingertips to make better decisions while understanding risks, Soni says.

Deepa Soni, CIO, The Hartford

The Hartford

With new technologies poised to reinvent business processes and disrupt entire markets, Soni says she and her CIO counterparts must play a pivotal role guiding the business to think about things differently while recognizing opportunities to harness technology to create solutions for business partners, customers, and employees. One of the more significant changes at The Hartford has been to embrace agile practices, not just in the IT domain, but as a companywide business practice. “We’re now organized around customer-centric value streams that start with the product owners in the business and extend into technology,” she explains. “The opportunity to leverage data and technology is increasing so we have to deliver capabilities faster to be able to better capitalize on future opportunities.”

Leveraging data, advanced analytics, and AI is top priority across the board. Thirty-four percent of IT leaders responding to the 2023 State of the CIO survey called out data/business analytics as a major tech initiative driving IT investments, second only to security and risk management (38%). Machine learning and AI were also high on the list, cited by 26%.

Foundry / CIO.com

With data and analytics a critical engine for driving business strategy, Dow Inc. combined its data and analytics teams into one group last year, elevating a new dedicated leadership role. Chris Bruman, Dow’s first chief data and analytics officer, reports directly into Melanie Kalmar, a corporate vice president and Dow’s CIO and chief digital officer.

Chris Bruman, chief data and analytics officer, Dow


In his dual role, Bruman leads a centralized data and analytics team, but also has accountability for building a data and analytics strategy for the entire enterprise, to both enable growth and empower productivity. On his watch, Dow has updated its data operating model to a hub and spoke approach, is setting up a data platform and data catalog that can support the entire enterprise, and expanded the data initiative to harness both structured and unstructured data. Bruman’s group has also invested time and resources in data literacy, launching a companywide program to upskill the enterprise in the language of data and how to take advantage of data and analytics.

“Because analytics are so much more important in how we do work every day, we don’t believe a fully centralized team can keep up with the demand,” he explains. With the federated or hub and spoke approach, the power of leveraging analytics rests in the business functions. “It’s about data democratization and empowering the spokes to do more on their own,” he says.

The CIO-plus role takes shape

In addition to the focus on data, Dow has also invested considerably over the past few years to put digital platforms in place, including those aimed at improving and speeding up the pace of innovation and delivering a better digital buying experience on Dow.com while expanding direct connections with customers. Dow is also working to digitize its manufacturing sites, channeling data to the field where it’s needed to drive decisions and improve operational efficiency, operating discipline, safety, and reliability, according to CIO and CDO Kalmar. “Digital at Dow represents a company strategy, not just an IT strategy,” she says.

Melanie Kalmar, CVP, CIO, and chief digital officer, Dow


Other CIOs, like Kalmar, are expanding their roles and oversight responsibilities beyond IT as digital strategies move front and center in the business. Many are taking on new revenue responsibilities — a move cited by 68% of IT leaders this year, up from 65% in the 2022 State of the CIO survey. As part of the move, 44% of IT leaders are managing a team tasked with new revenue-generating capabilities, while a quarter are members of such a team, the research found. As part of this expanded revenue charter, IT leaders are automating business and IT processes (47%), creating new products and services (40%), and making data more available (34%).

Foundry / CIO.com

Andrew Ho of Global Strategy Group (GSG) now has ownership of both the IT and offices services organizations — a move precipitated by the synergies between the two areas. With hybrid work now a mainstay, Ho’s dual role ensures he has accountability for evolving employee experience and engagement from working both remotely and in-office. For example, when reconfiguring office space to accommodate hybrid work, it’s impossible to separate technology requirements from construction given the need for immersive audio-visual tools, Zoom rooms, and hoteling capabilities, says Ho, senior vice president and head of technology and office services for GSG, a research, communications, and public affairs agency.

Andrew Ho, SVP and head of technology and office services, Global Strategy Group

Global Strategy Group

In addition, Ho says the office services staff is also best positioned to handle the front-end technical support for the firm given they are always in office and maintain a certain relationship with employees. “The lines have blurred with what is facilities versus what is technology, and all of that falls under IT,” he says.

Foundry / CIO.com

Sastry Durvasula, who holds both the CIO and client service officer titles, came into TIAA a year ago in part for the CIO-plus opportunity. From a technology perspective, Durvasula’s 2023 roadmap balances transformation through a digital-first agenda built around data and AI for hyper-personalized experiences while at the same time, modernizing the core platforms and processes by harnessing automation and orchestrating hybrid, multicloud migration.

On the Client Services front, Durvasula’s focus is also on AI and automation to transform the way TIAA does everything from front-office client engagement to fraud management and client support services. “Our fundamental belief is that Client Services would have a significant benefit to have proximity to technology as they would be the biggest beneficiary when it comes to AI, automation, and the digital services we are investing in,” Durvasula explains. “It makes a lot of sense to bring them together.”

Sastry Durvasula, CIO and client service officer, TIAA


Durvasula, who’s held CIO-plus roles with oversight of IT and digital products at other companies, firmly believes technology’s front-and-center role in business strategy has changed the game and set IT leaders on a new course. It’s not a matter of switching focus between technology initiatives and business strategy, he says, it’s a balancing act that requires an equal focus on both.

“Now that technology is front and center in business strategy and not a back-end enabler, that changes the CIO role quite a bit,” he says. “Technology is disrupting business in a lot of ways and this is the best time to be on the CIO career path. The branches are wide open.”

Business IT Alignment, CIO, Digital Transformation, IT Leadership

Organizations have been transitioning away from legacy, monolithic platforms as these decades-old IT systems bog down management, flexibility, and agility with their tightly entangled components. CIOs have shifted toward building their own web application platforms with a set of best-in-class tools for more flexibility, customizations, and agile DevOps. This choice, however, isn’t right in all circumstances. In fact, it could be locking you into rigid choices, just like a monolithic platform.

Gartner warns that building your own platform is complex, time consuming, and may not save you money. Independently developing, testing, deploying, and scaling your infrastructure requires expertise, agility, and a shift in team responsibilities. One proven way to ensure a robust, flexible, and streamlined solution is to invest in a standardized front-end platform you can build on. Here’s why.

Building distracts from your core business

Companies (e.g., ecommerce businesses) opting to build their own platform will ultimately find themselves focused on the platform instead of their core business—selling their product. Platform development includes design, coding, testing, securing, and deploying. No platform is a fire-and-forget type of affair.

What’s also overlooked is managing the platform’s non-functional requirements (NFR), such as ensuring maintenance, reliability, visibility, etc. Developing a custom platform requires the expertise of top talent. This talent typically prefers to create, not maintain, so this type of talent is difficult to retain. While you can foster the loyalty of your employees by investing in them—it’s never as predictable as paying a fee for an always-available, all-in-one solution.

Platforms offer predictable total cost of ownership

Large IT projects are hard to execute, particularly when in-house staff is often pulled into multiple directions and distracted by other priorities. This can be costly for organizations: A recent study found that 25 to 40% percent of IT projects exceed their budget or schedules by more than 50%.

Modern platforms, like Edgio’s, are built to unify application tools to lower the total cost of ownership, increase efficiencies, and reduce errors. A comprehensive and streamlined solution can save you from overworking your team to deploy new updates on time and under budget.

In-house innovation can lead to lock-in and employee frustration

A Freshworks survey revealed that nine out of 10 employees are frustrated with their workplace technology, and the majority will consider finding a new employer if they are not provided the tools, technology, and information they need to do their jobs.

Custom platforms are usually cobbled together with different tools from multiple vendors, making them difficult to use. The more customized the in-house platform, the more entrenched the company becomes in it. This limits the ability to adopt new tools, techniques, and technologies to innovate. It’s much like a vendor lock-in with a monolithic platform, but one that was built inside the company.

This, in turn, can cause slower workflows and growing frustration. Over 5,000 DevOps professionals shared details about their processes, and 69% reported wanting more consolidation due to hidden costs, insufficient agility, and the time maintenance takes away from managing security and compliance.

Don’t lose your employees and operational efficiency to ineffective and inefficient tools and workflows.

The multi-billion dollar aggregate investment

Custom platforms are often poorly documented and maintained, and increasingly difficult to use, which increases time to market. This is unforgiving in today’s current economy. In fact, McKinsey found organizations with higher developer velocity outperform competitors in the market by up to five times.

A standardized front-end platform that facilitates continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD), for example the use of serverless functions driven by all the companies using the solution, can drive significant value to each. There are many other companies using the solution, and their aggregate investment will always exceed your potential investment in your own platform. Investing in your own tooling will never scale like that.

To build or not to build?

In today’s rapidly evolving software development landscape, the investment in a robust platform provides a more cost-effective and streamlined solution. It enables companies to focus on their core business objectives and reduce the burden of developing and maintaining customized platforms that limit their ability to innovate.

Companies need to be strategic in their tool choices and recognize the importance of investing in a reliable front-end platform for their web applications that facilitates CI/CD and allows you to build with flexibility. 

Edgio operates a globally scaled edge CDN network with a vertically integrated frontend platform for web apps and APIs. Click here to learn more.

Enterprise Applications, SaaS

How can we get our IT teams to be viewed as more consultative partners to the business? It’s one of the big questions I continue to hear from CIOs. While technology has changed dramatically over the past decade and become increasingly intertwined with the business’s success, many IT teams remain in order-taking mode, responding to requests and then scrambling to address the issues that arise after the fact.

With its end-to-end view of the organization, no function is better positioned than IT to collaborate with the business and take on the role of problem-solving partner. As James Johnson, CIO of James Hardie Industries, notes, “Very often, the IT function is the most knowledgeable function in a company in terms of its broad purview and understanding of both business process and of the technology that runs that process. It’s almost like a secret superpower that even within the IT function we don’t always recognize.”

Flexing this superpower — and being credible in the role — requires a shift in mindset and approach as well as new skills.

We can learn a lot from the CIOs who have been successful in creating consultative IT cultures and workforces. In a recent virtual roundtable discussion, I posed the question to a group of CIOs from diverse industries, including James Hardie’s Johnson; Shanna Cotti-Osmanski, CIO of ConMed; Kristie Grinnell, CIO of DXC Technology; Vicki Hildebrand, CIO of BCBSMA; Sue Kozik, CIO of BCBSLA; Kelly Lyman, CIO of PECO; and Sanjay Shringarpure, CIO of Republic National Distributing. They shared valuable perspective and advice on how to move IT organizations up the Maturity Curve to become more strategic, consultative partners and a driving force in the business.

Shifting to a business-first mindset

In many ways, technology leaders and their teams are going through a transformation that’s requiring them to redefine their purpose and the lens through which they view their role. As Hildebrand notes, we’ve developed a language over time that separates technology from the business, and that paradigm has to shift, starting with leadership.

James Johnson, CIO, James Hardie Industries

James Hardie Industries

“It’s understanding that the function of IT is really to be the business partner first — to bring value to the company,” Johnson says. “So I lead with that mindset. I want to understand what the business problems are, and how we can help solve for them.”

At Republic National Distributing, Shringarpure takes this business-first concept a step further, describing IT’s relationship with the business in terms of two people or teams having joint ownership for driving a business case scenario.

“We call that ‘two in a box,’” Hildebrand adds.

Vicki Hildebrand, CIO, BCBSMA


And here is where PECO’s Lyman says a consultative leadership style is vital: “That’s what helps employees feel like they’re part of the solution. This is not senior leadership coming in and forcing me to go do something. I’m part of the collective decisions on how we’re helping the business in a way that has real, valuable outcomes. We’re adding value not only in what we’re delivering and the way that we’re delivering it, but at the end of the day, we’ve optimized these processes to be the most efficient that we can be.”

This mindset about IT’s role has to be developed and sometimes redefined throughout the organization, not just within the technology organization. Working for James Hardie, a well-established cement manufacturer with a still-growing IT team, Johnson has experienced firsthand the importance of emphasizing to everyone — including business partners — that IT’s job is one of value-enabling, not order-taking.

That’s not always easy, especially when there’s a firmly engrained perception that IT is there strictly to contribute technical capabilities. Even at an insurance organization like BCBSLA, where Kozik says the business relies on her IT team “to help knit things together, since we see how the information flows in an enterprise view that many of our business colleagues don’t,” there are still very few projects where IT is the business owner. Instead, IT is mostly viewed as a technical owner.

Sue Kozik, CIO, BCBSLA


It’s a challenge of perception even at the CIO level, Kozik adds. “Historically, we weren’t really thought of as businesspeople. We were technologists. And I’d say, ‘Do you think the CFO is just a finance person? Aren’t they a businessperson first? Why is IT different?’”

Showing up differently

In many cases, those perceptions are rooted in the reality of how IT has shown up in the past. Most IT organizations still aren’t leveraging their unique view of the enterprise, particularly when it comes to how their teams engage with business partners and their ability to anticipate and deliver game-changing value. This not only prevents many in IT from getting that proverbial seat at the table; it can also obscure some of the creative, innovative work IT is doing — and what that contributes to the business.

Kelly Lyman, CIO, PECO


“Maybe it’s not the big shiny new thing, but a smaller process change or streamlining through automation — these are adding value,” Lyman says.

Shringarpure adds that IT professionals don’t have to take on a massive game-changing initiative to start building credibility with their business partners. In fact, starting smaller can often be more effective. By racking up incremental wins over time, they’ll demonstrate their value and earn the right and the experience to tackle the bigger projects going forward.

Sanjay Shringarpure, CIO, Republic National Distributing

Republic National Distributing

The problem is, sometimes the IT team itself doesn’t recognize the full business impact of what they’re creating. They need to understand the broader goals of the business, how they fit in to these, and how they contribute value to the business. Along with that, leaders need to give people the opportunity to build business acumen across various areas of the organization so they can understand how the business functions. And, Lyman emphasizes, you have to invest in talent and develop your people so that they have the capability to have business-focused conversations.

Leveling up the IT organization pays off in terms of credibility, trust, and stronger relationships with business partners. That’s critical for balancing the needs of all stakeholders in a way that everyone can feel comfortable with. ConMed’s Cotti-Osmanski finds that getting everyone clear on the goals also makes it easier to unite around a solution.

Shanna Cotti-Osmanski, CIO, ConMed


“If my security team had it their way, everyone would be working in a cement bunker with a pencil and paper that we burned at the end of every day,” she says. “There has to be a balance, and oftentimes when I see conflict, it’s because we haven’t aligned on or clearly defined our goals. We might both agree that there is a problem, but we don’t agree on what the problem is and how to solve it. The people who are the most successful are able to back the conversation up, listen and ask questions.”

This takes communication skills as well as consultative skills, two of those so-called soft skills that are now core to success in IT. According to Cotti-Osmanski, who started her career in consulting, “The more technology professionals and leaders get comfortable with these kinds of conversations, the more confidence they’ll have in their viewpoints and the more respect they’ll be given for them. They’ll also be more effective at understanding business context and articulating value, which is especially useful when it comes to difficult decisions.”

BCBSLA’s Kozik adds, “Sometimes you have to be that leader that says we’re not ready to tackle X. It’s having the courage and belief to say no, but for the right reason. It’s ‘no’ so that we can accomplish something else of value. But we need to equip our people to confidently have these different conversations.”

Building culture, increasing value

As more companies reorganize their technology organizations around the mega processes or value streams of the business, many CIOs see it as an opportunity to align and amplify IT’s role working hand-in-glove with the business. That means IT teams need the consultative mindset and skillset to hold up their end of the bargain.

Kristie Grinnell, CIO, DXC Technology

DXC Technology

As DXC’s Grinnell says, the point is to help the company make not just better decisions about what and how to deploy technology, but better-informed business decisions that will drive tangible outcomes.

“We make decisions around data, process, and systems, in that order. And we do it purposely,” she says. “What data do we need in order to make a good business decision to drive good business insights so we can innovate and get ahead of the curve? We have KPIs that are looking at, what are the business outcomes we’re trying to achieve? Everything has to be looked at from that lens.”

Kozik, who has a track record of building a consultative culture across multiple companies and industries, has seen the results.

“I know how this movie ends. As my folks start to show up and engage differently, we start to drive more value. These successes change the narrative with our business colleagues, and we get invited to the first meeting where we can have the greatest impact. Meanwhile, morale improves across my department. This is why I’ve been so intentional about investing in the development of consulting and marketing skills,” she says.  

There has never been a better time to be in the IT profession, and those who apply these new skills while leveraging IT’s unique end-to-end view of the enterprise are going to continue to thrive.

Dan Roberts will be leading a pre-conference workshop, “Persuasive Communication,” for CIO’s FutureIT event March 29 in Dallas. The interactive session, led in conjunction with Larry Bonfante, will focus on negotiation, diplomacy, trust-building, and more. Register here.

Business IT Alignment, IT Leadership

Networking isn’t just for holiday parties. It’s something you should do all year long and, if approached correctly, it works no matter where you are on the career ladder.

The two cardinal rules of networking, according to CIOs and career coaches, are to schedule time to do it for at least an hour every month, and to approach it as something you do to help others in addition to yourself.

Joe Topinka, a career coach with CIO Mentor in Charlotte, NC, says he was not originally a big fan of networking. “My boss encouraged me to do it back when I was in software development, and I actually resisted it,” he recalls. “I used to try to do it on Fridays, and I’d get up and start whining about it to my wife. But then I started doing it, and I’d come back energized and full of ideas.”

These days, like most people interviewed for this article, Topinka puts networking on his calendar to make sure he blocks out the time, and he advises his CIO clients to do the same.

Know you are not alone

Of course it’s critical to stay current with your contacts if you’re looking for a job, but networking goes far beyond that. Edward Wagoner, CIO of Chicago-based commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, says that attending events with other CIOs has given him a much-needed confidence boost.

Edward Wagoner, CIO, Jones Lang LaSalle

Jones Lang LaSalle

“For years I avoided networking events because I felt I didn’t belong,” he says. “I suffered from a crippling lack of self-worth.” But after sharing these feelings at conferences with other CIOs, he heard from a number who had the same issue. “I’d walk into a room and think, ‘Oh, my God, look at all these very accomplished people.’ But it turns out they were thinking the same thing. We’re more alike than I ever gave myself credit for.”

In addition to building a sense of comradery, networking helps in other ways, too. CIOs talk to each other about approaches to major projects — techniques and technologies that have or have not succeeded for them — as well as tips for working with various vendors and how to address staffing issues, among other topics.

“‘We’ is smarter than ‘me,’” says Larry Bonfante, an executive coach with CIO Bench Coach in West Nyack, NY. “The more you can surround yourself with smart people, the more you can avoid stepping into the same rabbit holes.” Plus, he says, given how quickly the industry is evolving, networking “helps you see what’s going on in the broader world.”

Ken Piddington, VP and CIO, US Silica

US Silica

In fact, networking can help keep you marketable even before you start a job search, says Jayne Mattson, a career coach and author. Talking to others can help you see how your accomplishments can transfer across industries and how you can add value to other companies. It’s also a great way to hear about other opportunities, including at companies that may be laying off in some technology areas but staffing up in others, she adds.

Some CIOs, including Ken Piddington, CIO at US Silica, use networking events to “keep recruiters warm,” by connecting with national or local IT specialists. Even if he’s not looking for a job, he might know other CIOs who are and can help get them in touch. Plus, he says, “I want to understand the different [HR] firms and where they specialize, and then I find a way to get introduced.”

Make the most of online opportunities

Most experts agree you’ll get much more out of an in-person outing. But if budget or time are tight, online conferences can work, Mattson says. If you do opt for a webinar, make sure your camera is on, and comment when you can.

“When you participate, people look at you as a go-to person, and that’s how you want to be seen,” Mattson says. “If you’re on mute and don’t look at the camera, that defeats the purpose.” And make sure to take advantage of any online networking opportunities the conference organizers provide.

The pandemic has been a boon for online conferences. Megan Duty, vice president of technology and project delivery at Puritan Life, says her time available for networking increased because she was working at home more. “I wasn’t commuting as much and felt these conferences were important,” she says.

Choose your groups carefully

Generally, Duty attends meetings that are relevant to insurance, leadership, women in technology, or those hosted by consulting groups she wants to get to know better. A lot of these forums are back in person, she says, and she traveled a lot during 2022. But she used her virtual time to figure out what the most valuable conferences were before attending in person.

Megan Duty, VP of technology and project delivery, Puritan Life Insurance Company of America

Puritan Life Insurance Company of America

Another technique, she suggests, is to tap into the people you meet. She asks professional acquaintances which groups they belong to and whether they have found value in attending their meetings or annual conferences.

JLL’s Wagoner says he selects conferences that will help him learn things he doesn’t already know, or that “challenge me to think differently.” For instance, he doesn’t need to hear that cybersecurity is important; he already knows that.

Another plus is to have inspirational speakers, like Sabina Ewing, the global CIO at Abbott Laboratories, or Danielle Brown, CIO at Whirlpool, “people I’d pay to be in the room to hear from,” Wagoner says. He explains how he was impressed by how Whirlpool, a mature manufacturing firm, knocked a tech company out of The Wall Street Journal’s “Management Top 250” list, and wanted to learn more about how it did that.

Wagoner recently hosted a group of CIOs at JLL’s Chicago corporate headquarters, and he spoke about his company’s efforts to be carbon-neutral as part of his firm’s commitment to help educate people about what it’s doing. Another speaker at that event was Dr. Nancy Tuchman, founding dean of sustainability at Loyola University Chicago, “one of the most sustainable” secondary institutions in the world, Wagoner says. “The audience was asking questions and engaging even before we asked them to.”

Ron Mathis, corporate IT operations director, Illinois Tool Works

Illinois Tool Works

Ron Mathis, operations director for information technology at Illinois Tool Works, says he needs to pick and choose which groups he belongs to because “there are many different organizations targeting my demographic; I can’t participate in all of them.” Most of his networking time and energy are spent with the Chicago chapter of the Society of Information Management (SIM), a national group for IT leaders with many local chapters. He’s also active on LinkedIn.

His counsel: “Pick one, and don’t look for an immediate ROI on your investment of time. Over time, I’ve found significant value in building a network of other people I ask for professional advice.” 

Start local and small — and do it now

Don’t wait until you need a network; you don’t know when that will happen. Instead, build it before you need it, which means now. “A good network doesn’t happen by accident,” says US Silica’s Piddington. “It has to be purposeful.”

If you’re just getting started with networking, it’s probably best to begin with local MeetUp groups, or the closest SIM chapter — in other words, something small that includes people you can keep in touch with afterward. Choose a group where you will be as comfortable as possible with your peers, and where you can give something back. Keep in mind that other attendees really do want to hear about your relevant professional experiences, both positive and negative.

Prepare questions before you go, then pick a couple of names off the agenda as people you want to talk to, and do it. Ask to meet for coffee at the conference venue or nearby (and pick up the tab), have a half-hour conversation, then ask if it’s okay to keep in touch after the conference is over. Build from there; most people remember what it’s like to be new in their role and are generous with their time.

CIO Bench Coach’s Bonfante says, “It’s not about being the most interesting person in the room; it’s about being the most interested. Ask about the people around you — what they’re doing, what they’re having problems with.”

You can also start by leveraging your existing professional social-networking contacts; Mattson is a big fan of using LinkedIn as a networking medium. Just make sure your profile is up to date.

Where to get some help

For the truly introverted or absolute beginner, you can learn the basics by doing some reading before venturing out. US Silica’s Piddington recommends Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow, and Keep Your Business Relationships, by Thom Singer.

Mattson wrote a book, You, You, Me, You, explaining how to develop and nurture professional relationships. She says she wrote the book out of frustration because people often believe they know how to do this well when, in fact, they don’t.

Give back

Once you find your tribe and are comfortable, volunteer to be a mentor, be on a panel, or lead a discussion. It helps build your brand, too, CIO Mentor’s Topinka says.

CIO Bench Coach’s Bonfante recalls when he left Pfizer and tried to keep in touch with someone who was still at the company. For a year his calls went unanswered, “and I got the hint” and stopped calling. Two years later, the person called him to ask for a favor. Bonfante did it, but as he spent time helping the guy, “I was thinking, ‘Wait, when I tried to call you, you were in witness protection, and now you want something from me?,’” Bonfante says.

Don’t be that guy.

Everyone knows something of value, but it might take some time before you’re up for genuine sharing, JLL’s Wagoner advises. “I wasn’t ready for self-reflection until a bit later in my career,” he says. It took some time to develop “the ability to look at myself critically, in the right way, and share with others, to really open up and help people.” For him, these days, networking is about being authentic as both a human being and a CIO, and that realization was the result of “a lot of coffee and a lot of angst.”

It takes some time and effort, but networking is more important than ever, especially for younger people or those new to an IT leadership role. “You’ll get out of it what you put into it,” Wagoner says. “Figure out a way to participate.”

Careers, CIO, IT Leadership, Mentoring

Steve Zerby prides himself on the fact that he not only mentors midlevel IT managers but spends time with all 211 people in the Owens Corning IT organization.

Steve Zerby, CIO, Owens Corning

Owens Corning

“I could probably tell you the name of their significant other,’’ says Zerby, who will retire as CIO of the company, which makes insulation, roofing, and fiberglass composite materials, in March 2023. “A good day for me is when I spend 51% of my time in either talent discussions or interactions with members of our team, from the lowest level to the executive level. That’s just the way we operate.”

While Zerby has groomed Owens Corning’s Vice President of IT Annie Baymiller as his successor, he has also forged ties with external CIOs so she can gain insight into what the top IT position looks like in other companies. In addition to Zerby, Baymiller has been mentored by Bill Braun, CIO of Chevron, and Mindy Simon, the former CIO of Conagra Brands.

“They’ve been key mentors for [Baymiller] for several years,’’ Zerby says. “I did that because I think highly of both, and it gives Annie good perspective on what other IT organizations look like — good, bad, or indifferent.”

Like Owens Corning, organizations are frequently turning inward to grow their own future CIOs beyond formal training programs, through a combination of mentoring, shadowing, coaching, and assigning additional responsibilities.

“There’s a real concerted effort to develop and train that middle [IT] organization and really strengthen it,’’ says Dan Roberts, CEO and president of Ouellette & Associates Consulting, which trains IT leaders. “Oftentimes, we call it the ‘frozen middle,’ because the mid-tier is what really sustains our change initiatives, and if they’re not strong and pushing, they’re not going to survive.”

“Every good CIO is building those succession plans and education programs to get their team ready,’’ agrees Len Peters, faculty director for the online CIO senior executive program at New York University and chairperson of The CIO Institute.

But there is also a misnomer about what the CIO role is, and that can affect how people are trained, he adds. People “think it’s the tech person or the person who runs IT,’’ Peters says. “The CIO is a business leader who happens to know a lot about technology.”

The case for developing a deep leadership bench

To ensure the long-term health of the company, tech chiefs must focus on building up that middle tier of IT leaders, a reality many CIOs are only now recognizing the need to address.

“There are not enough people out there — you have to develop your own people,’’ says Roberts, who estimates that only 10% to 20% of companies are “being intentional about doing formal development programs.’’

Mike Eichenwald, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry Consulting, agrees that it’s important to elevate individuals from vertical leadership roles within the pillars of infrastructure, engineering, product, and security to enterprise leadership roles. With technology converging in all aspects of the business, doing so will help organizations leverage the diversity of experience those midlevel managers have under their belts, and their learning curve and degree of risk will be minimized, Eichenwald says.

“Unfortunately, organizations miss an opportunity to cultivate that talent internally and often find themselves needing to reach out to the [external] market to bring it in,’’ he adds.

But developing future IT leaders requires more than it has in the past, given the speed and complexity of change in today’s uncertain and volatile business landscape, Roberts says. Internal training programs “are not getting the job done for IT leaders,’’ he claims, because they tend to be more generic, “and let’s face it, IT has a unique set of challenges and responsibilities.”

While anyone can initiate change, Roberts says, leading and sustaining it is harder to accomplish. “If they don’t have that change muscle, initiatives are more complicated.”

Here is a look at how CIOs are growing midlevel IT leaders for the CIO role and IT leaders who are benefitting from their experience.

Increase responsibilities and find opportunities outside of IT

Tim April believes wholeheartedly in growing his internal people to become CIOs to increase stickiness and retention. April, executive vice president and CIO of Vail Resorts, says the CIO’s biggest job is talent selection and development.

Tim April, EVP and CIO, Vail Resorts

Vail Resorts

“My philosophy my whole career is that everybody’s job should be to work themselves out of a job,’’ he says. As CIO, April is “trying to develop an organization and team that doesn’t need me,’’ he says. “It’s actually the most healthy thing for the organization” to build an IT team that is sustainable, self-contained, and self-managed.

That way, you have a strong succession pipeline. “A strong succession plan means you don’t want to rely on one successor and you should always be investing in multiple people,’’ he says.

CIO preparation at Vail Resorts focuses on the vice presidents who have demonstrated competence at that level and have a stated ambition to become a CIO. April increases their responsibilities so they gain an understanding of how to run the whole IT department.

“Pushing them outside their comfort zones and expanding their scope forces them to think differently about the leadership role they play,’’ he explains.

For example, he has one vice president who ran all software applications for the mountain division, and over time, April has added the software portfolios of other lines of business to that vice president’s responsibilities.

This gives them more stakeholders to engage with and manage. It also forces them to change how they prioritize their time and where to focus their energies — one of the hardest things for everyone to do at every level, according to April. People get used to where they feel they can add value and where they are productive, so this trains them to do that at different levels of leadership, he says.

“When you continue to progress and you have exponential growth in your scope of responsibility, you don’t have the capacity to do the things you used to do when you had less scope, so it forces a behavioral change,’’ he says. It also changes the way IT leaders lead because they are not as involved in the day-to-day details as they assess risk and talent at a different level, April says.

“That helps start prepping them for the next step,’’ he says. “That’s a very consistent behavioral process that’s very much about preparing people [to become] the CIO.”

Of course, only one vice president can become the eventual CIO. So even though a few people are being groomed for the role, they have the opportunity to run an operation outside of IT to gain experience that could still be beneficial for a future CIO position. That’s the case for one of the Vail Resort’s vice presidents whose whole career has been in IT. She has taken an operational leadership role running all guest services at Vail Resorts but still reports to April.

“She may still want to be CIO but will do this for a few years and get an entirely different set of professional experiences overseeing thousands of employees out at the resorts,” April says. “I’m still coaching and mentoring her on potential opportunities to be CIO” while she gains exposure to what it is like to run a large operation.

“The key is you’re not limiting your contributions” based on your knowledge of technology, he adds.

Right now, April has three potential successors, two in IT and the vice president who is running guest services. “I’m not moving anywhere,’’ he notes, “but that should be my mindset every day — I want succession candidates, and my job is to get them ready.”

He speaks from experience. Before April became CIO, “I was No. 2 to our prior CIO for about 10 years,’’ having been identified as a potential successor. April also stepped outside of IT “and ran large programs and didn’t limit my scope. If you get bored, it’s your own fault,’’ he says. “There are plenty of ways to step up and play leadership roles and anything you do outside IT will make you a better CIO.”

April also recognizes that some of the vice presidents may find CIO opportunities outside of the company and says if he’s not ready to step down, they should “go for it” but with a caveat. “I do tell them their responsibility is to have a strong team underneath them and have clearly defined successors” so if they leave the company, there is a seamless transition.

“Part of your legacy is how well-prepared your team is,’’ he says, “and what level of succession planning you have in place to ensure someone could step into your role.”

Prepare to be uncomfortable

Having had a strong mentor early in his career, Michael Mahar, vice president of technology at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, also knows the value of gaining experience beyond the tech realm, saying he was given autonomy and the opportunity “to experiment, learn, and fail fast.” That type of culture has resonated with Mahar throughout his career.

Michael Mahar, vice president of technology, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

“Creating a culture to learn and grow where failure is not critical and is looked at as a growth opportunity,’’ creates a mindset that makes you more growth-oriented, Mahar says. “I looked for new things to take on because I wasn’t afraid to fail and knew I had support from the leadership team if I did make a mistake.”

Now, Mahar, who has held at least 15 different positions at Wyndham, is paying it forward and carving out time to mentor IT managers at the hotel chain.

“I’ve described myself to people as a people leader who has a high acumen for technology,’’ he says. “The way we accomplish our goals for the business is to help people grow.”

People in general want to contribute and do well, Mahar says. “As a leader, the more that I can help them be successful, the more successful we can be as an organization. That has been proven time and again.”

Mahar does a combination of mentoring, shadowing, coaching, and providing formal training, tailored to individual needs.

For example, he has one direct report with whom he is “very direct” in providing feedback and has also given a lot of autonomy. Another direct report is very risk-averse and wants to talk things through. “With that individual, I take a much more hands-on approach where I mentor and listen and ask questions,” he says.

Mahar says he is “on a CIO track” and continues to look at opportunities to take on new things as well as doing some public speaking and networking.

Wyndham CIO Scott Strickland has mentored Mahar by helping him build relationships throughout the company and promoting a philosophy called “yes, if,” meaning “yes, we can do that if we have these resources,’’ Mahar says. “It’s changed the way we innovate and work with the business.”

As Mahar forges ahead, he says he has learned two valuable lessons: be willing to take on something new and be prepared to be uncomfortable — and encourage your team to be uncomfortable, too. “A lot of leaders steer away from that,’’ he says. “They want to provide all the answers instead of allowing their teams to grow and learn on their own and take on mentor roles.”

Learn to become a great people leader

As the incoming CIO of Owens Corning, Baymiller credits Zerby’s commitment to helping her and other IT leaders on the “journey of development.”

Annie Baymiller, vice president of IT, Owens Corning

Owens Corning

She calls Zerby “a special type of leader’” who takes great interest in making sure people have challenging work. “And he builds roles around people,’’ she says. “Something we’ve adopted in our IT organization is balancing the things you’re great at with things you need to be learning.”

Zerby’s decision to find external mentors to also work with her was transformative, Baymiller says. It helped her build trusting relationships to the point where it was easy to pick up the phone to bounce ideas off them.

Baymiller says Zerby also helped to put together a capability map on skills she and the other CIO contenders are expected to have expertise in. That led her to “go build my development plan and do a self-assessment” of where she had natural strengths and where she had to grow her skills.

A great CIO starts by being a great people leader, Baymiller says. Getting to lead diverse teams in Europe and in North America helped her tremendously. “It made me a better people leader,’’ she says.

Baymiller has also learned that to be a successful CIO requires the recognition that you need a leadership team with the right depth, “so I’m making the right decisions from a risk mitigation strategy.”

From Zerby, she has also learned to be open to feedback. Baymiller says she hopes to continue Zerby’s legacy of building a high-performance leadership team. “I mentor people across the company, and it’s super rewarding to learn about different functions and understand what people are trying to learn. I’m a huge believer in the value of teams.”

Her goal as CIO is for her people to “wake up every day feeling supported and … if I continue to grow that leadership team the way Steve has, we have a couple of fun years ahead of us,” she says.

Invest in people and give your time

Claus T. Jensen, chief innovation officer, Teladoc Health

Teladoc Health

For Zerby, one of the most important things a CIO can do is to invest in their people. “If you’re really invested in them and they win, you feel great, and when they have bad days, you feel rotten,’’ he says. These CIOs are constantly thinking about the development and advancement of their staff.

For CIOs who want to grow their own successors, “the most pertinent question is probably how much of yourself are you willing to give in the grooming of the next generation,’’ adds Claus T. Jensen, chief innovation officer of Teladoc Health, who mentors midlevel IT managers. “It’s not usually the first question people ask — and it’s the one they should ask. Giving of yourself is not just your time but being vulnerable to share the good and bad moments in your career as learning opportunities.”

It comes down to how you measure your own success as a CIO, he says. “If your metric for success doesn’t include a better team, you have to think twice about whether you’re going to be the one pushing people toward being the next C-level leader.”

IT Leadership, IT Training 

By Patrick McFadin, DataStax

When the gap between enterprise software development and IT operations was bridged 15 or so years ago, building enterprise apps underwent a radical change. DevOps blew away manual and slow processes, and adopted the idea of infrastructure as code. This was a change that upped the ability to scale quickly and deliver reliable applications and services into production.

Building services internally has been the status quo for a long time, but in a cloud-native world, the lines behind cloud and on-prem have blurred. Third-party, cloud-based services, built on powerful open source software, are making it easier for developers to move faster. Their mandate is to focus on building with innovation and speed to compete in hyper-fast markets. For all application stakeholders—from the CIO to development teams—the path to simplicity, speed, and risk reduction often involves cloud-based services that make data scalable and available instantly.

These points of view aren’t far apart, and they exist at many established organizations that we work with. Yet they can be at odds with one another. In fact, we’ve often seen them work in ways that are counterproductive, to the extent that they slow down application development.

There might be compelling reasons for taking everything in-house but the end users are voting with execution. Here, we’ll look at the point of view of each group, and try to understand each one’s motivations. It’s not a zero-sum game and the real answer might be the right combination of the two.

Building services

Infrastructure engineers build the machine. They are the ones who stay up late, tend to the ailing infrastructure, and keep the lights on in the company. Adam Jacob (the co-founder and former CTO of Chef Software) famously said, “It’s the job of ops people to keep the shit-tastic code of developers out of your beautiful production infrastructure.” If you want to bring your project or product into the sacred grounds of what they’ve built, it has to be worthy. Infrastructure engineers will evaluate, test, and bestow their blessing only after they believe it themselves.

Tenets of the infrastructure engineer include the following:

Every deployment is different and requires qualified infrastructure engineers to ensure success.Applications are built on requirements, and infrastructure engineers deliver the right product to fit the criteria.The most cost-effective way to use the cloud is to do it ourselves.

What infrastructure engineers care about

Documentation and training

Having a clear understanding of every aspect of infrastructure is key to making it work well, so thorough and clear documentation is a must. It also has to be up to date; as new versions of products are released, documentation should bring everyone up to speed on what’s changed.

Version numbers

Products need to be tested and validated before going into production, so infrastructure teams track which versions are blessed for production; updates must be tested too. A critical part of testing is security, and we are generally behind the latest cutting edge, so we have the most stability and security.


Performance is critical, too. Our teams have to understand how the system works in various environments to plan adequate capacity. Systems with highly variable performance characteristics – or those that don’t meet the minimum – will never get deployed. New products must prove themselves in a trial by combat before even being considered.

Using services

Installing and running infrastructure is friction when building applications. Nothing is more important than the speed of putting an application into production. Operational teams love the nuances of how things work and take pride in running a well-oiled machine, but developers don’t have months to wait for that to happen. Winning against competitors means renting what’s needed, when it’s needed. Give us an API and a key, and let us run.   .

When it comes to infrastructure, developer tenets include:

Infrastructure has to conform to the app and not the other way aroundDon’t invent new infrastructure—just combine what’s availableConsume compute, network and storage like any other utility

Things service consumers care about

Does it fit what I need, and can I verify that quickly?

The app is the center of the developer’s universe, and what it needs is the requirement. If the service being considered meets the criteria, this needs to be verified quickly. If a lot of time is spent bending and twisting an app to make a service work, developers will just look for a different service that works better.


Developers want the lowest cost for what they get. Nothing so complicated that a spreadsheet is required. With services, developers don’t necessarily believe in “you get what you pay for,” with more expensive being better. Instead, they expect the cost to decrease over time from a service provider finding efficiencies. 


Developers expect a service to always work, and when it doesn’t, they get annoyed (like when the electricity goes out). Even if there is an SLA, most probably won’t read it—and will expect 100% uptime. When building my app, I assume there will be no downtime.

In the end, the app matters most

From working with a lot of organizations for whom applications are mission-critical, we’ve often seen that these two groups don’t work particularly well together—at times, their respective approaches can even be counterproductive. This friction can slow application production significantly, and even hamper an organization’s journey to the cloud.

This friction can manifest itself in several ways. For instance, a reliance on home-grown infrastructure can limit the ways that developers access the data required to build applications. This can limit innovation and introduce complexity to the development process.

And sometimes balancing cloud services with purpose-built solutions can actually create complexities and increase costs by watering down expected savings from moving to the cloud.

Application development and delivery is cost sensitive, but it requires speed and efficiency. Anything that gets in the way can lead to a dulled competitive edge, and even lost revenue.

Yet we also know of organizations that have intelligently combined the efforts of infrastructure engineers, who run your mission-critical apps today, and those who use services to build them. When the perspective and skills of each group is put to good use, flexibility, cost-efficiency, and speed can result.

Many successful organizations today are implementing a hybrid of the two (for now): some bespoke infrastructure mixed with services rented from a provider. Several organizations are leveraging Kubernetes in this quest for the grand unified theory of infrastructure. When describing a deployment model, there are blocks that create pods and service endpoints, with  other blocks that describe endpoints on a pay-per-use method. If you are using any cloud with Kubernetes, think storage and network services.

There are other important elements to an organization’s universe of services — whether they’re built or bought. Standard APIs are the de facto method of serving data to applications — and reduce time to market by simplifying development. SLAs — customer and internal alike — also clearly delineate scale and other performance expectations — so developers don’t have to.

Finally, I should point out that this is an immediate challenge in the world of open source data where I live. I work with Apache Cassandra®—software you can download and deploy in your own datacenter for free; free as in beer and free as in freedom. I also work on the K8ssandra project, which helps builders provide Cassandra as a service for their customers using Kubernetes. And DataStax, the company I work for, offers Astra DB built on Cassandra, which is a simple service for developers with no operations needed. I understand the various points of view—and I’m glad there’s a choice.

Learn more about DataStax here.

About Patrick McFadin:


Patrick is the co-author of the O’Reilly book “Managing Cloud Native Data on Kubernetes.” He works at DataStax in developer relations and as a contributor to the Apache Cassandra project. Previously he has worked as an engineering and architecture lead for various internet companies.

IT Leadership

By Thomas Been, DataStax

Bringing a promising idea to life with an application that solves a hard problem or creates an amazing experience (or does both)—this is the developer’s dream. But even if that dream comes true, real success can only be achieved if the groundwork has been laid for high growth.

DataStax set out to identify enterprises and builders that define the future of data and have planned and prepared to scale to whatever demand their growing businesses and customer bases place upon them.

These “Digital Champions” have built data-driven, high-growth businesses. They are the visionaries and driving forces in using real-time data and the cloud to deliver unprecedented value to their organizations. As you’ll read below, the hard work, vision, and ingenuity of these builders has led to significant success and recognition for their organizations.

It’s not easy. Developers are often hampered by the laundry list of challenges that can stymie growth, productivity, speed, and innovation, including data silos, technical debt, and data architectures that aren’t scalable.

The first four in the DataStax Digital Champions series—Overstock, Temporal, Alpha Ori, and Uniphore—have overcome these hurdles thanks to their use of modern data technologies to build and run fast-growing, real-time applications that delight consumers and power businesses. Read on to learn more about their journeys, and keep an eye out for upcoming Digital Champions.


While at Overstock, Devin Bost played a key role in building an organization-wide data fabric to leverage real-time data to help the online retailer expand into new markets, provide a powerful experience to its customers, and ultimately drive shareholder value.

Bost, the company’s former senior data engineer, explained how Overstock’s data architecture handles extremely high volumes—it processes between four billion and 10 billion events per day—and expects to expand that significantly.

The company’s prowess at harnessing real-time data made them a shoo-in to earn the title of Digital Champion.

Learn more about why Overstock is a DataStax Digital Champion here.


Temporal’s superpower is making life easier for developers. It does so by offering a workflow orchestration engine: Enterprises provide the business logic and Temporal handles all the parts that require specialized expertise, like persistence and resilience.

So it’s no surprise that the company’s platform, built by CTO Samar Abbas and his Temporal co-founder Maxim Fateev, has experienced rapid success and high-growth in the three years since the company was launched. Its open-source software code is used by the likes of Netflix and Instacart, and just this year Temporal secured a $103 million Series B round that put its valuation at $1.5 billion.

We’re proud to recognize Temporal as a Digital Champion.

Learn more about why Temporal is a DataStax Digital Champion here.

Alpha Ori

With approximately 90% of world trade transported by sea, Alpha Ori Technologies recognized a great opportunity to apply cutting-edge, real-time information solutions to the maritime transportation industry.

Cofounded in 2016 by Praveen Viswanath, the company’s platform offers intelligent analytics, alerts, and insights from data gathered from over 260 vessels. The results have been impressive, says Viswanath, who is Alpha Ori’s chief architect: since inception, the platform has saved its users an aggregate 44,000 metric tons of fuel, resulting in an aggregate $5 million in cost savings and preventing the release of 137,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The results have garnered Viswanath glowing recognition. He recently received the Constellation Supernova Award for business transformation.

We are pleased to recognize Alpha Ori as a Digital Champion.

Learn more about why Alpha Ori is a DataStax Digital Champion here.


Uniphore’s Saurabh Saxena knows that when it comes to winning new customers, conversations are the most important asset—and huge volumes of real-time data are key to generating value from that asset.

Founded in 2008, Uniphore offers a platform that analyzes sentiments with AI in real-time. Saxena, who is Uniphore’s head of technology and vice president of engineering, explained how his company’s platform seamlessly captures and processes about 200 data points on every meeting participant’s face at 24 frames per second—this can add up to 4 million records generated in a single meeting.

Uniphore’s innovation has generated explosive growth, and its promising future has garnered continued interest from the investment community (the company earlier this year announced a $400 million funding round that boosted its valuation to $2.5 billion).

DataStax is proud to have helped Uniphore handle the massive volumes of real-time data that its platform generates, and is pleased to recognize the company as a Digital Champion.

Learn more about why Uniphore is a DataStax Digital Champion here.

We’re honored to partner with companies like Overstock, Temporal, Alpha Ori and Uniphore on their journey to success with high-growth applications and platforms, by speeding their time to market and ensuring that their data architectures have the runway to scale to whatever their success throws at them.

Does your organization fit the Digital Champion mold? Contact me to nominate a Digital Champion today!

About Thomas Been:


Thomas leads marketing at DataStax. He has helped businesses transform with data and technology for more than 20 years, in sales and marketing leadership roles at Sybase (acquired by SAP), TIBCO, and Druva.

Enterprise Applications, IT Leadership

By: Lars Koelendorf, EMEA Vice President, Solutions & Enablement at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Can an enterprise CEO today be successful without having a strong relationship with the CIO and the corporate network?

The short answer is no. Technology today powers and enables so much of how businesses function. Given the pace of digitization, the corporate network, led by the CIO, is increasingly becoming a critical business decision center for the CEO within the broader context of running a large enterprise.

In particular, there are three points CEOs today must consider when examining the network and their relationship with the CIO.

1. Investing in the network is foundational to achieving business goals

Is there any department across the modern enterprise business that would not benefit from the ability to work better, faster, easier, smarter, cheaper, and more secure?

The COVID-19 pandemic has already proven again and again why digital transformation is now fundamental to business growth and survival, especially in the face of outside, unanticipated events severely impacting normal business operations.

Matching technology with how business engages key publics, from clients to the community to investors and beyond, allows employees to create higher quality work while producing more competitive products and services that keep pace with ever-evolving demands. It means empowering back-end functions to support the rest of the business better than before. Meanwhile, regardless of which department they belong to or where they choose to work, employees must have the best experience possible, without any technical roadblocks and complications that can stop them from delivering their best work. Otherwise, employees will and are seeking out that environment elsewhere. Indeed, many employees actually experienced very good connectivity while working from home during the pandemic – and now demand that same easy and seamless experience coming back into the workplace or while on the road.

The key to creating that effective work environment is ensuring the CIO makes clear to the CEO the value of automated systems, which not only includes streamlining operations, but eliminating human error, overcoming human limitations, and freeing up employees to focus on projects that drive real value. In short, with the right technology, CIOs can drive actionable insights from the deluge of data that a given company has been accumulating that support the CEO’s long-term vision and business goals.

Enterprise data has the potential to deliver significant cost savings, improve operational efficiency, and even unlock new business opportunities and revenue streams. But first, it needs to be stored, secured, sorted, and analyzed – all of which a great enterprise network can facilitate.

To unlock its full potential, CEOs need to work closely with their CIOs and other department heads to understand the exact impact that the network could have on every area of the business.

2. The network also plays a vital role in achieving sustainability goals

Sustainability is not just a strategic priority. For most companies around the world, sustainability has become the priority, given that it’s being driven both from the top down (by company boards, investors, and governments) and from the bottom up (by employees, the general public, and key communities affected by business operations). In essence, networking capabilities must align with corporate sustainability goals and initiatives to truly achieve its full potential.

The network plays an integral role in empowering enterprises to become more sustainable, to measure and prove that sustainability, and to build more sustainable products and services. Therefore, investing in the right network infrastructure should be at the top of any CEO’s agenda, and they will need to work in tandem with the CIO and other relevant department heads to achieve those aims.

3. A modern network can help the enterprise stay ahead of potential pitfalls

Given the rate of change and disruption, any CEO simply investing just enough in the network to keep operations moving has already lost the plot. The CEO instead must work closely with the CIO to anticipate future business needs, opportunities, and threats, outlining clear goals and corresponding initiatives that ensure the modern network is flexible and nimble enough to meet the challenges.

It used to be that if the network were down, employees could do other manual work while waiting for a fix. Today, however, if there are issues with the network, everything stops, from the factory floor to the storefront to the corporate headquarters. In that sense, the network is mission-critical to keeping the business running.

But the network has so much more potential than this – to help the business continually stay ahead of and be differentiated from the competition. The reason is an agile network creates the foundation for every area of the business to innovate, from IT to R&D and logistics.

With an agile network, the infrastructure is always ready to integrate, support, secure, and fund any new technological developments that might help the business to move the needle on its goals.

Creating Strong C-suite Connections

While this particular article has focused on the relationship between the CEO and the network, at the end of the day, the CEO must empower the CIO to be an advocate for the network and support all C-suite members to work together towards building one that helps them achieve both individual departmental and collective organizational goals.

For more on creating a modern, agile network, learn about Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform): https://www.arubanetworks.com/solutions/aruba-esp/


Data-driven brick house, or house of modern tech cards?

The origin of winning insights? Sometimes, it’s an individual at your organization. Other times, insights come from cross-team collaboration. No matter the human catalyst for the breakthrough, it all starts with your data. You need to empower your people, across technical and non-technical users, with equal access to data. In other words, data democratization. And democratization begets the data-driven culture your organization needs for enduring success.

There’s good news and not-so-good news about organizations’ data-driven mission. The good? Most executives agree data-driven operations across lines of business is key to a winning strategy. Illustrating that point is the 85% increased investment in digital capabilities and 77% increased investment in IT, as reported in the 2022 Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey.

The not-so-good news? In New Vantage Partners’ Data and AI Leadership Executive Survey 2022, two alarming numbers highlight the struggle: 1) Only 26.5% report having achieved the data-driven goal, and 2) only 19.3% report having established a data culture. Those two numbers contribute to one particularly disturbing number: Through 2025, 80% of organizations seeking to scale digital business will fail because they don’t take a modern approach to data and analytics governance, according to Gartner’s State of Data and Analytics Governance. Modernizing tech stacks and migrating to the cloud are not enough on their own. Organizations must modernize their governance practices to fully uphold their modernization efforts. With no buttressing data-driven or data-democratization pillars, their efforts are built upon a risk-ridden house of cards.

Building a democratic, data-driven brick house

Moving to the cloud promises massive potential. But the benefits are equally matched by complexity. Each cloud service has its own unique method of security and access policy enforcement. Now, add the growing spectrum of regulations and compliance mandates that must be enforced and kept up to date across this increasingly complex and technically diverse data estate. Plus the increasing number of data consumption and policy stakeholders.

All this complexity creates massive friction between data consumers, policy drivers, and especially IT, which is tasked with physical policy implementation and enforcement. 

So begins the journey to evolve data governance. And with no single size fitting all, organizations are struggling. How do we build a sustainable, modern data governance program?

Six practical steps toward better governance

Create and document your data guidelines as to who can access specific types of data.Document policies to formalize roles, access, and capabilities. For example, what can each type of user do with different types of data?Perform data discovery to determine what’s in each table, column, row, or cell. Classify and tag the sensitive data based on the rules and requirements laid out in your guidelines and policiesCreate fine-grained access policies that will be enforced in your data layer, predicated on your defined guidelines. This is the basis for permitting or accessing data for discovery, moving beyond describing and documenting to establish where sensitive data resides.Expand base policies by defining and creating specific controls for enforcing encryption, masking, and tokenization across each data service accessed.Provide deep analysis and monitoring to provide full visibility, monitoring, and auditing into data access and usage – ideally via a single pane of glass for administrators and data stewards to monitor and control data at rest and in motion.

It’s possible to achieve centralized data access and security governance across your entire multi-cloud estate. All your stakeholders – such as business teams, IT, and compliance – can leverage a unified, holistic way to manage, define, and enforce data access policies across your storage, compute engines, and consumption methods. That’s what you need to power your data democratization and achieve a data-driven enterprise.

By using Privacera, enterprises get a single, centralized data security and access policy management and enforcement layer for efficient access governance across hybrid and multi-cloud data sources. Their unified platform simplifies data security and privacy enforcement by automating and managing the entire lifecycle, including sensitive data discovery and classification. Classify and tag data based on built-in support for PII, GDPR, HIPAA, and various other regulations. Build fine-grained security policies, automatically synced to your underlying data services for localized policy enforcement and execution. And reduce time to insight through orchestration and automation of manual data governance processes to fuel your data-driven mission. Privacera’s built-in data access request workflows and automation securely get the right data to the right people faster to power your data democratization.

Learn more about Privacera here.

Data and Information Security

All indications are that Mastercard’s vision for creating teams built around the so-called “Five Cs” – community, common vision, cross-functionality, culture, and Cutting edge – works.

Two years after its opening, the 230 employees at Mastercard’s Global Intelligence and Cyber Centre of Excellence in Vancouver have already submitted 30 patents and some of their products are in use around the world, helping to protect both commercial businesses and consumers from cybercriminals.

CIOs don’t always have the opportunity to build such a large team in one fell swoop. But the same principles that guided hiring at Mastercard’s Vancouver, British Columbia, tech hub (the eighth such centre for the company including those in Ireland, Australia, the US, and others) can help build IT teams of any size.

Nicole Turner, Mastercard senior vice-president, technology hubs, explains the Five C principle, and how IT leaders can use them to guide their own work.


Like all companies, Mastercard is looking for the best possible talent. “But ideally, we try to hire local people, those who have a presence in the community. For us, that’s a plus,” Turner says.

She believes that people involved in their community are more likely to establish contacts with local businesses and help find more talent down the road. Even if a company is targeting the international market, having nearby partners can provide a host of benefits, generating new product development, for example.

For Mastercard’s technology centres, the community aspect is not only related to hiring but to the company itself. The new facility in Vancouver operates an exploration centre that holds co-creation workshops involving the company and its customers.

Mastercard also regularly invests in the regions where it’s located. Last year, the company donated $6.3 million to various local programs, such as Tech-Up, which is linked to helping young Canadians learn about technology. Employees who are present in their communities can help build such connections with local organizations.

These relationships are not only beneficial and motivational for local teams but have a positive impact on the company as a whole down the road.

Common vision

Each of Mastercard’s eight technology centres has its own personality and specific mission. For example, the Vancouver centre focuses on intelligence and cybercrime, while the Sydney, Australia, hub concentrates on artificial intelligence and machine learning. As for Dublin, Ireland, the centre there specializes in e-commerce.

“These hubs are independent, but Mastercard is a global organization, so everything has to be aligned on a common vision,” Turner says.

She has implemented a clear structure to coordinate the work of the various centres. “As an employee in a tech hub, I work with a local manager – but that manager has to operate with the global directors,” she says.

“The teams were designed to work on their own, but also to make sure that what is created locally can benefit the whole company.” In other words, the autonomy of the different units doesn’t result in working in silos.

For Turner, a fragmented structure with a common vision “allows the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.”


“We mix skills in our teams, and we make sure they’re able to design a product from start to finish,” says Turner of the third C in her approach.

While some organizations might compartmentalize the different skills needed to create products (for example research in one centre, development in another, user experience in a third), Mastercard wants its tech hubs to imagine, develop, design, and create new products from beginning to end.

“To me, that’s the secret sauce for IT centres,” Turner says.

Cross-functional teams are especially important in times of labour shortages. Employees take pride in the work they’ve accomplished when they feel they’ve had a significant impact in making it happen and that they were able to bring their own ideas to fruition.

By definition, cross-functional teams also allow for exposure to people with different experiences and skills than one’s own, which can benefit the whole organization in fostering innovation.

“Our teams are also designed to be scalable,” says Turner. For example, Mastercard expects to hire a total of about 400 skilled employees at its Vancouver centre.


When a new team is formed at a tech hub, Mastercard looks for talent that shares the company’s culture, both in relation to where the centre is located and to the global structure of the organization.

 “We’re looking for people who are intellectually curious and who enjoy working toward goals,” Turner says. She believes the role of a technology centre like Vancouver’s is to create a culture of innovation and to allow its talents to thrive and achieve the best possible results.

For each tech centre, Mastercard also makes efforts to build teams with employees from underrepresented backgrounds, such as Indigenous and LGBTQIA+ people. “We’re committed to inclusion and equity in Canada and around the world: every major digital innovation requires it,” states the company on its website.

Mastercard also hires neurodivergent talent. “These are people who have unusual strengths that can help us create better products and serve different types of customers,” says Turner.

Cutting edge

Innovation means new technology, but not everyone is constantly pushing the envelope. “We seek talent that wants to be on the cutting edge of things – always ahead of the curve,” Turner says.

She believes it’s important to attract employees who will “think about the next generation of technology,” and who will be comfortable with more than just the current tools and ways of doing things. The company must attract this talent, but also build an organization around them that allows people to explore future opportunities.

Whether it’s AI, blockchain or other advanced technology, companies don’t always know in advance what will be the solutions to the problems they’ll be facing tomorrow. Building teams that naturally gravitate toward new technologies ultimately makes it easier to integrate cutting-edge innovations.

Translation by Daniel Pérusse

IT Leadership