When asked to cut expenses, cut them deeper than asked, advises this VP of IT. Use the money saved in high-return areas.
Mike Altendorf VP of IT, Do it Best
How long at current company: About two years at this hardware store retailers' cooperative.
Career accomplishment I'm most proud of: Turning around a technology division that the company was rumored to be spinning off. Once the rumor got out, people began to leave and morale dropped. The company decided not to sell it, which left us short-staffed. The staffing situation caused our support desk to get behind on its calls, and complaints were rising.
I did a lot of listening, which was key to the turnaround. The department had 140 people in it, and I held one-on-one meetings with many of them. I sought out their opinions on ways to improve tech support and people. In the end, I replaced some leaders, reorganized staff, and laid out a vision for the future. By focusing on the new vision, we were able to turn the division around.
Decision I wish I could do over: We had a project to connect our independent affiliates to a cloud-based inventory system that would enhance supply chain decisions. In the end, the adoption risk was higher than anticipated and outweighed the benefits. The lesson learned is always to do a solid job of assessing risks.
On The Job
IT budget: $15 million
Size of IT team: 100
Improving agility. This has many attributes, from data management to development methodology. The goal is to be able to respond more quickly to address business needs.
Supply chain systems improvements, which include driving more value from key supply chain apps.
Migration to SharePoint for our intranet.
The next big thing for my industry will be ... to leverage wireless access to information at the product level. It's easy for consumers to get information regarding any item by using the Internet; however, retailers will need to provide complete information about their products while customers are in the store as well. Employees will also benefit from mobile access to item-level information.
Best way to cope with the economic downturn: If asked to cut expenses, cut them deeper than asked. Invest the difference in high-return investments. Use the opportunity to rebalance your IT expenses to be more productive. We use a spend management team to negotiate software purchases and to renegotiate old maintenance contracts.
The federal government's top technology priority should be ... national security as it relates to cybercrime and attacks.
Kids and tech careers: They really must look at what businesses require. There has been a shift in what is and isn't needed. There's a growing demand for business analysts who can relate systems design to business process requirements. There is a great need in areas like system architecture, networking, security, and database expertise. And the demand for project management skills isn't going away.
PersonalColleges/degrees: Northern Illinois University, BS in marketing and MBA
Leisure activities: Jogging and tennis
Best book read recently:The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team, by Patrick Lencioni
Favorite sports team: Chicago White Sox
Favorite president: Ronald Reagan, who created a fertile environment to grow jobs
If I weren't a CIO, I'd be ... a college professor
The Business of Going DigitalDigital business isn't about changing code; it's about changing what legacy sales, distribution, customer service, and product groups do in the new digital age. It's about bringing big data analytics, mobile, social, marketing automation, cloud computing, and the app economy together to launch new products and services. We're seeing new titles in this digital revolution, new responsibilities, new business models, and major shifts in technology spending.
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