CIOs have a lot to contribute, not the least of which is the ability to demonstrate how business technology can drive success

John Soat, Contributor

July 11, 2008

3 Min Read

Lately I've been obsessed with the subject of "Tomorrow's CIO"--the attributes, capabilities, skills, savvy, and personal habits future tech leaders will need to succeed at an increasingly demanding executive position. I wrote a feature story on it (see "Tomorrow's CIO") and a soon-to-be-released Analytics Report based on exclusive research. I thought I had the topic nailed.Then a good source wrote to remind me of an important virtue I'd overlooked: altruism.

That source is Angelo Mazzocco, the CIO of Progressive Medical, which supplies medical equipment and services to insurers. Mazzocco's a member of the board of the GroundWork Group in Columbus, Ohio. GroundWork provides technology services to more than 130 charities and nonprofits in the Ohio area. Mazzocco's been in it since the beginning.

In 2004 he was approached by the executive director of the United Way and a local entrepreneur to enlist the aid of members of the Columbus CIO Forum, a networking group Mazzocco had helped launch. "They wanted to get a group of CIOs together to deal with how nonprofits could get more affordable technology solutions and training," he says.

The problem is this: Contributors don't want charities to spend money on IT because they see it as overhead rather than opportunity. Unfortunately, many in executive management in the nonprofit sector feel the same way.

Mazzocco and his group set out to deal with that by establishing tech expertise on the boards of many nonprofit groups in central Ohio. "Tech execs are always looking to get on boards," Mazzocco says. "It helps their resumés." Today, they have 70 CIOs sitting on the boards of local-area charities.

They also set out to lower the cost of IT for non-profits. GroundWork offers what it calls "IT In A Box"--managed services such as network infrastructure, e-mail, and business continuity. It also offers technology training and support, and help with procuring IT products and hiring IT staff.

Earlier this year, GroundWork merged with another Columbus nonprofit named Civic, which was created 20 years ago by the founder of CompuServe, Jeff Wilkins. Civic brought with it database management and CRM tools for charities, which it offers as an online service. Mazzocco says the group's mulling adding an accounting package in the software-as-a-service model. "That's the next step," he says.

A representative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently visited the GroundWork Group. That's good news for a couple of reasons. One, GroundWork could use the money. Two, Mazzocco thinks the organization can scale. "If the Gates Foundation gets behind us, it'll really take off," he says.

It's important for Tomorrow's CIOs to be involved in charitable work because (a) it's the right thing to do; (b) CIOs have skills, not just in technology but in project management, that are valuable and needed; and (c) more people need to see evidence that technology is a solution, not a problem.

Thanks for reminding me, Angelo.

"Tomorrow's CIO" is the theme of our upcoming InformationWeek 500 Conference, Sept. 14 to 16, in Monarch Beach, Calif. (register). Share your thoughts at our CIOs Uncensored blog.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page.

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