CIO Profiles: Robert L. Geller, CIO At XO Communications
"Unless we solve the problem of shipping tech jobs overseas," says XO's CIO, "we'll force new job entrants to consider other careers."
Robert L. Geller CIO, XO Communications
How long at current company: 7-1/2 years
Career accomplishment I'm most proud of: I'm very proud of the individuals I've been able to mentor and help achieve success at a variety of levels.
Most important career influencer: Rod Mack at US West taught me the discipline of using process and metrics to drive an organization from one level of maturity to the next.
Advice for future CIOs: To have an impact on the business and be invited to the corporate table, function as a business problem solver, not a technology implementer.
The best way for CIOs to cope with the economic downturn: This downturn is unlike anything we've seen before. Still, there are some basics that have worked in the past that you should adhere to. First, eliminate any unnecessary or nice-to-have expenses. Second, go through the project portfolio and revalidate that the projects you're working on have the requisite return and discuss that with the business leaders.
Finally, don't forget the employees and their stress level. Communicate more frequently than you would normally do, and make sure they understand and are involved in crafting solutions for the current situation.
The federal government's top tech priority should be ... to ensure that there's open and fair access to the Internet. It's a priceless asset that, managed effectively, can help make sure that competition and excellence drive the American economy.
Kids and technology careers: Technology is a growing and opportunity-filled field for young people to pursue. However, I fear that unless we solve the problem of shipping tech jobs overseas, we'll force new job entrants to consider other careers.
On The Job
IT budget: $80 million
Size of IT team: 400
Top initiatives:>> Transformation: Defined as the creation of a factory-like environment for those products and services that are simple enough to be standardized. This initiative will result in improved productivity for delivering services, yielding greater profits.
>> Product development: As XO, which provides communications services, moves upstream to enterprise customers, we need to focus on having a product set that matches that move.
>> Customer handling: Customer handling has become a critical element of building a successful customer relationship with customers of all sizes. This year, we've delivered new customer portals for our retail and wholesale customers.
How I measure IT effectiveness: We examine operational and project metrics to ensure that our systems and projects are meeting expectations. We also do field visits to obtain feedback on how well our systems are doing at solving basic business problems. Finally, we've developed a robust prioritization model to assess the value of each IT project.
Leisure activities: Basketball--I still play three mornings a week. You can learn a lot about a person on the basketball court because you can't hide your real personality. I'd love to play basketball with President Obama.
Tech vendor I respect most: Bill Gates. He really understands the meaning of charity.
Biggest business-related pet peeve: Poor customer service. It just doesn't take that much more to give excellent customer service.
If I weren't a CIO, I'd be ... a lawyer. I still think about going to law school someday. The skills and traits required to be a successful lawyer are very similar to those of a successful CIO.
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.