CIO Profiles: Peter Whatnell, CIO Of Sunoco

Sunoco's CIO is also the president of the Society for Information Management.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

February 20, 2009

3 Min Read

Career Track

PETER WHATNELLCIO, Sunoco, and President, Society for Information Management

How long at current company: Seven years

Career accomplishment I'm most proud of: Bringing order to chaos. At one company that I joined, the IT activity was extremely fragmented. There were overlapping systems and technologies, no one knew what "standard" meant, and services were unreliable. After three years, with great support and effort by the IT management team, you wouldn't recognize it as being the same place.

Most important career influencer: An early boss, a dour Scotsman, taught me to keep grounded, be pragmatic, and never be satisfied with your own performance (but in a healthy way). And, most important, that if you encourage people, support and guide them, then they will amaze you--and themselves--with what they're capable of. During all of this, you should maintain a sense of humor. (That's not easy for a dour Scotsman.)

Decision I wish I could do over: At one company, we were looking at a major legacy replacement project and a number of the executives didn't want to "go to the trouble" of defining a business case, arguing that it was an obvious business infrastructure investment. Against my better judgment, I was convinced to go along with that view. Of course, 10 months later, the project was killed.


Advice for future CIOs: In 30 seconds, be able to describe how your company makes money. Make sure that your style and behaviors are aligned with your company's culture and style. And don't fall in love with the technology.

The next big thing for my industry will be: moving to the cloud--not everything, probably not even a majority of our current in-house services, but still a significant amount.

View on offshore outsourcing: Not a silver bullet, and not a substitute for good judgment or management. There are real benefits to offshore outsourcing, but you need to work at it.

On The Job

IT budget (approximate): $90 million

Size of IT team: 250

Top initiatives: Our two big priorities are driven by the current recession:

  • Technology-enabled business process efficiency to wring out the last cent of cost. Also, looking at procurement spending.

  • Alternative IT service delivery models: Cloud services for e-mail and office apps; more use of the public Internet to replace private circuits.

How I measure IT effectiveness: In the current economic climate, the short-term focus is very much on IT delivery cost and business process efficiency. Therefore, this year's measurement focus is all around the benchmarked costs of IT services.

Tech partners: We're a Microsoft shop, but we still have a significant mainframe footprint. Our infrastructure outsource partners are AT&T Services, CompuCom, and Wipro.


Favorite sport: English Rugby Union

Best book read recently: I'm rereading my John le Carré collection. I just finished Smiley's People.

Smartphone of choice: BlackBerry 8830 World Phone. Just spent a week trying a BlackBerry Storm and hated it.

If I weren't a CIO, I'd be sane and relaxed without a care in the world, and have a home life.

Personal computer: Refurbished Dell Latitude

College: North Staffordshire Polytechnic (United Kingdom)

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