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12/7/2012
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San Francisco Giants' Bill Schlough: InformationWeek IT Chief Of The Year

The Giants' CIO and his team are innovating in areas such as analytics-based scouting and in-stadium wireless, keeping the World Series champions ahead of the game.

The Stalker?

Bill Schlough is impeccable. His office, bursting with books and memorabilia, feels a little cluttered, but everything has its place, like his bulletin board with inspirational quotes. Several awards and plaques hang on the wall, but they're hidden. His notes and projects are organized in neat stacks.

I had planned to ask him about mentors, but he beats me to the punch, listing among them his late mother-in-law, whom he describes as someone who labeled everything and sweated the small stuff. One of his heroes is Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the International Olympic Committee, and he's a disciple of Gary Rogers, the former CEO of Dreyer's Ice Cream, who's a big believer in empowering teams. Schlough invited eight of his mentors to join him at his banquet table in Los Angeles when he was named to the Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal's 2010 "Forty under 40."

I confess that it's difficult to find flaws in the man. Either that or he's got something on just about every associate I talked with.

How about this: He doesn't really like music, and doesn't listen to it. String him up!

On the morning I met with Schlough, he was up early stalking Randy Petersen, founder of InsideFlyer and Milepoint and, according to Schlough, the god of frequent fliers. Schlough set a goal early in his career to fly 1 million miles, and after achieving that milestone got United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek (the boss of a friend) to sign Schlough's Up In The Air movie poster. And now he landed Petersen. One more signature to go: George Clooney's. (I'll take the bet that Schlough gets that one, too.)

Schlough is an Ironman triathlete and dreams of qualifying for and competing in the annual world championship in Kona, Hawaii. Sports has always been a big part of his life. In college at Duke, he played club sports and won the Kevin Deford Gorter Memorial Award, given to the athlete who has contributed the most to sports at the university. Friend Christian Laettner, winner of a college basketball national championship and Olympic gold medal, doesn't have one of those. At EDS, Schlough worked on the soccer World Cup.

But Bill Schlough, the technology executive and sports enthusiast, is best viewed as a leader who brings purpose and humility to that calling.

Woolley, the Giants' director of strategic IT initiatives, says Schlough is "a CIO, a VP, but he's the type of guy who leads by example. He'll be right there when we have to clean out a closet." Woolley remembers when one of the Giants' sites in Arizona was down. Schlough volunteered immediately to get on a plane. "He'll do whatever it takes to help the team."

Logan quipped about the Arizona trip: "He probably did it for the miles."

Anne Cribbs, CEO of the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee, says Schlough is adept at building consensus, especially among those with big egos. Other associates and direct reports describe him with words like "progressive" and "structured." Before I left AT&T Park, he provided me with a breakdown of help desk trouble tickets and an example of the day-of-game support manual. I hadn't asked for such things, but he must have thought it would be helpful.

Schlough is also someone who "pushes limits," says Pearl, who heads up sponsorships for the Giants. "He doesn't see roadblocks. He sees opportunity."

Baseball, it is said, is a game of inches. A little white ball traveling 90 miles per hour, a skinny stick. Your arm, his eye. A stare, a blink, a swing.

Bill Schlough can't miss.

Bill Schlough At A Glance
Education: BS in mechanical engineering from Duke University. MBA from the Wharton School.
Professional experience: At EDS (1992-1996) performed a variety of functions for clients such as AMD, World Cup USA, General Motors and Kmart. At Booz Allen Hamilton (1998-1999) provided IT strategy and other consulting services to media/entertainment industry clients. Since 1999, senior VP and CIO of San Francisco Giants
Other affiliations: Board member of the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee, where he played a key role in getting San Francisco into contention to host the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics. Board member of Junior Achievement of Northern California (since 2003). Media center technical supervisor for 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
Recent books read: Seth Godin's The Dip and Marshall Goldsmith's What Got You Here Won't Get You There.

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