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CIO Of The Future In One Word: Fast

David Wright, CIO of McGraw-Hill Education, has a clear vision of IT's future. Learn from his experience and pick his brain at InformationWeek's IT Leadership Summit at Interop New York.

IT leaders from many industries lead conversations with me with the same word: speed. IT used to reward marathoners, people skilled at stewarding massive projects and plans over the course of years. But that version of the CIO role -- so respected as recently as say, 2008 -- now seems like a genteel, antiquated notion of yesteryear. Tomorrow's IT leaders will be talented sprinters and hurdlers.

IT leaders and teams must dash to launch new products or address emerging customer needs. And in all likelihood, it will be one race after another, as digital technologies keep transforming industries from travel to retail.

David Wright, recently appointed CIO of McGraw-Hill Education, faces just such a digital disruption in the educational publishing industry. McGraw-Hill, one of the three leading textbook publishers (along with Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) calls itself a digital learning company and develops software and services to suit the changing needs of classrooms. (Wright previously served at senior VP at Capital One, where he was head of global technology infrastructure, credit card CIO, and UK CIO.) Sharing his experiences and strategies, Wright will be my guest at Interop New York to discuss "A CIO's View on IT's Future," part of the InformationWeek IT Leadership Summit on Tuesday, September 30.

For starters, Wright says any talk of "IT and the business" must end. As he wrote in this column for MIT Sloan School of Management's Center for Information Systems Research, "The term 'the business' should refer to everyone in the company... Banish the phrase 'IT and the business,' and instead say, 'IT and the other parts of the business,' " he advises.

That sets the tone for how Wright delivers digital business results. Here's a preview of what we'll explore with Wright at the IT Leadership Summit session. We hope you will register and join us.

InformationWeek: How has the need for speed changed the demands on your business and your IT team?

David Wright: Our market is changing rapidly, with a massive shift from traditional print formats and simple e-books for learning to integrated and adaptive learning platforms that allow educators to tailor programs to the needs of the class while the platform automatically adjusts content to the needs of the individual. The pace of innovation is high so we’ve increased our innovation tempo. That also raises the pressure on sales and support teams to keep pace with updates to our offerings so they can help our customers adapt.

InformationWeek: Is IT a crucial part of the product launch team at your company? How has your team adapted to this dynamic?

Wright: IT is essential to product development and product launch. Every new product has some companion technology component that must be integrated into the process. To enable close collaboration and rapid development, we’ve moved to the Agile methodology for working. The switch over included a learning curve, but the benefits of improved focus and faster delivery started to arrive quickly.

InformationWeek: How might the CIO role evolve further in the next three years?

Wright: As people throughout the business become more knowledgeable about technology and what it takes to bring new capabilities to market through working in Agile teams, the CIO will face increased challenges to support innovation and speed to market with up to date tools, processes, and architecture. There will be more situations where multiple tools are needed for a given type of work, depending on the technology environment and team work style.

In addition, tolerance for friction, whether due to process controls, security requirements, or anything else will continue to degrade. The CIO of the future will be much more focused on supporting the innovation and delivery process than on delivering massive projects.

InformationWeek: What are the communication keys to staying on track with your business partners? What kind of language/tactics do you encourage IT team members to develop?

Wright: The primary key in my view is to have the right mindset. Specifically, technologists need to see themselves as specialists within a business who work with other specialists to deliver the firm’s products and/or services. With that mindset, the rest becomes easy: providing business context around ideas and needs; keeping up to date on primary skills; raising risks and opportunities quickly; and openly sharing perspectives on strategy and delivery plans. In short, act and communicate like a business partner who specializes in technology.

Want to hear more about how Wright ensures his team builds on that mindset to support business innovation? Join us at Interop New York for Wright's session, part of our highly interactive InformationWeek IT Leadership summit. We'll have lessons learned from stellar IT leaders -- and plenty of time for you to engage with them directly. I hope to see you there.

In its ninth year, Interop New York (Sept. 29 to Oct. 3) is the premier event for the Northeast IT market. Strongly represented vertical industries include financial services, government, and education. Join more than 5,000 attendees to learn about IT leadership, cloud, collaboration, infrastructure, mobility, risk management and security, and SDN, as well as explore 125 exhibitors' offerings. Register with Discount Code MPIWK to save $200 off Total Access & Conference Passes.

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