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3/14/2003
03:23 PM
John Soat
John Soat
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IT Confidential: Wind-Blown Or Driven, CIO Spot Still Beckons

'Once that [CIO job] gets in your blood, it's hard to get rid of.'

There's a new CIO at Cardinal Health, though she's no stranger to the $40 billion health-care products and services company's technology. Jody Davids took over this month from Kathy Brittain White, who retired. Davids has been with Cardinal Health for three years, running IT for the company's technology-intensive pharmaceutical-distribution business. Before Cardinal, Davids managed IT for Nike, and before that she was at Apple Computer for 15 years. Among Cardinal Health's technology-enabled initiatives are projects aimed at reducing medication errors by getting more accurate information directly to doctors and nurses at the patient bedside.

Sitting in front of a computer screen can be pretty sedentary, especially compared with a good workout. But Bally Total Fitness' new CIO hopes to integrate the worlds of exercise and technology. Fitness "is an industry that hasn't applied as many customer-facing technologies as industries like retail," says Gail Holmberg, who joined Bally this month from her job as senior director of administrative systems at Sears. For instance, CRM applications make sense because "they bring more direct communication with customers," she says. Bally wants to create "a club of the future," Holmberg says, that reflects the integration of technology with business goals and customer needs. Bally has 420 facilities in 29 states, and an IT staff of 100.

Gary Sutula has a funny definition of retirement. Sutula stepped down from the CIO post at R.R. Donnelley & Sons in December, ending a five-year stint during which he shepherded the $4.8 billion communications-services firm through an ambitious centralization project and a major ERP deployment, all while slashing the company's IT budget by $160 million. The 57-year-old Sutula, who previously held CIO posts at Transamerica Financial Services and American Savings Bank, decided the time was right to step out of the mainstream, so he "took the money and ran." He'd planned to lay low for six months before surveying his options. But almost immediately, Sutula was contacted by a Silicon Valley venture-capital firm, for which he's since been advising a couple of startups: Verify and Protect, an authentication and encryption play, and Euclid Network Solutions, a maker of IT management software. Now he's entertaining an offer of a CEO spot with a startup that's prepping a product for the automotive industry. But Sutula seems to be leaning toward ending his "retirement" by accepting one of the offers he's been getting for what he calls a "battleship post" -- running a billion-dollar company's IT department. Says Sutula, "Once that gets in your blood, it's hard to get rid of."

Gives new meaning to the term "high blood pressure." As for me, I'll take a "sailboat post" -- wind-blown, a few sheets to the wind, and lacking any fuel-injected driving force. Got a line on one of those jobs, or an industry tip? Send them to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about information delivery, the value of customer contact, or billion-dollar CIO jobs, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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