CIO Profiles: Jim Jones, VP And CIO Of Great River Energy

Look for innovation in the energy field to come from the smart-grid vision.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

August 28, 2009

3 Min Read

Career Track

JIM JONESVP and CIO, Great River Energy

How long at current company: Six years

Career accomplishment I'm most proud of: In the early to mid-'90s, the electric industry began transformation to open access transmission practices. There was an implementation target date and the concepts were defined, but not down to sufficient detail so that systems could be built to automate things. There were many challenges and several groups formed to work on them. It was long and hard work, great teamwork, innovative thinking, creative solutions--and we met the deadline. The work we did then prepared many of us for greater things to come.

Most important career influencers: I had a great high school math teacher, Mr. Erickson. He had real enthusiasm and he encouraged us to open our minds to allow our logic to flow. Also, I was fortunate to work with Dr. Potter at Iowa State. His passion was around renewable energy sources, particularly with innovative processes. Together, they remind me to keep an open mind and look for new solutions.


Advice for future CIOs: Go beyond providing services to business units. Become part of the business and industry, and make your customers successful.

The next big thing for my industry will be ... having a more holistic view of the energy value chain. In regard to electricity, this includes everything from all generation sources through delivery and energy use by customers. The smart-grid vision further melds existing power system technologies with innovative digital technologies. Demonstration and commercialization of new solutions will be critical to upgrade the operation of the electrical system.

Best way for CIOs to cope with the economic downturn: Continue refining operating practices for greater efficiency and effectiveness. Engage business sponsors for buy-in and justification of decisions related to strategic investments.

Kids and tech careers: We're encouraging our children toward technology--not necessarily to have a tech career but to learn as much as possible about it and be able to use it in whatever career they pursue.

On The Job

IT budget: $20 million

Size of IT team: About 65

Top initiatives:

  • We continue to put a priority on the maturity and depth of our security program.

  • Related to the smart-grid movement, we're developing a technology-related road map that enables continued success for Great River Energy and its associates in an ever-changing industry. That requires coordinating our initiatives for mutual benefit.

  • We're formalizing our project management system.

How I measure IT effectiveness: The most important indicator is customers and business partner satisfaction. We ask them to rate our performance as well as for suggestions on how we can improve.


Colleges/degrees: Graduated with a BA in physics and math from Hamline University; studied electrical engineering at Iowa State; received MBA from the University of St. Thomas

Leisure activity: Fishing

Favorite president: Jimmy Carter; after significant energy issues in the 1970s, he enacted an energy policy specifically calling for innovation

Business leader I'd like to have lunch with: Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute

Favorite sports coach: Tony Dungy, formerly with the Buccaneers and the Colts

If I weren't a CIO, I'd be ... either an entrepreneur or a teacher--the goal of each is to inspire possibilities and new ways of thinking

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