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How Steve Jobs Inspired IT Execs

Steve Jobs didn't set out to change enterprise IT, but he did by personally inspiring its leaders and by designing products at the core of the consumerization of IT. Five senior IT execs on InformationWeek's advisory board share their thoughts on the Jobs legacy.

InformationWeek Staff

October 7, 2011

6 Min Read

10 Key Steve Jobs Moments and Innovations

10 Key Steve Jobs Moments and Innovations

10 Key Steve Jobs Moments and Innovations (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Steve Jobs didn't innovate with the enterprise in mind, but his work and genius had a profound impact on CIOs and other business technology leaders. InformationWeek asked members of our Editorial Advisory Board to share their thoughts on the Apple co-founder's legacy--how he transformed the information technology landscape and even shaped their careers. Here are five excerpts.

Thank You For Not Giving In

Steve Jobs never cared much for CIOs. He regularly made that clear by pushing back on the things we wanted and doing what he thought was best for Apple. Thank God. Imagine how much we would have missed out on if he hadn't challenged us all to think differently. As one of those CIOs who he never gave in to, I say, "Thank you, Steve, for all you did for us."

-- Rob Carter, executive VP and CIO, FedEx

He Inspired Me To Be A CIO

Steve Jobs is the reason I am a CIO today. As a high school student in the '70s, the Apple CEO inspired me and lured me toward technology. I went on to major in computer science in college and wrote a research paper on the Macintosh, even convincing the local computer store to let me borrow its only Mac so I could demonstrate it in my class. As an MBA student in 1988, I read “Steve Jobs: The Journey Is The Reward,” by Jeffrey Young, and studied Jobs in my leadership class.

I will never forget the lessons I learned--lessons about focus, simplicity, passion, commitment. To me, Jobs represents the ultimate leader. He has demonstrated consistently that value can be achieved by converging technology with usability. His passion for design detail and his hands-on approach to managing the product delivery process are shining examples of the best we can be as technology leaders.

Too many tech leaders abdicate responsibility for the details to others and let their teams lose passion for excellence and the customer. In this day and age, we suffer from too much complexity, and as tech leaders, our job has to be to strive relentlessly for simplicity. Simplicity in design, in delivery, in support, in operations, and simplicity in how we present technology to the business.

Jobs exemplified all that and once said: “That’s been one of my mantras--focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

As technology leaders, we add real value to our companies when we take the complexity of our businesses and the complexity of technology and merge them so the result is simple, usable, and beautiful.

-- David Smoley, CIO, Flextronics

Game Changer? Not A Cliche Here

The term "game changer" comes to mind when I consider the legacy of Steve Jobs. I encountered Steve initially in 1991, while I was with Oracle. He was pitching the NeXt computer to Oracle. From the beginning, he had a different take on the enterprise software market from that of traditional vendors. Until recently, enterprise vendors mostly delivered complex software solutions, customized and made more complex to address customers' unique complex requirements. Implementations were lengthy and upgrades were tough.

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Steve's take was that consumer products can work in the enterprise. With the advent of the iPhone, the employee base has brought the device into companies, and Apple has caused "consumerization" to be the main influence on enterprise software developed today. Steve's game-changing approach is influencing the software industry to learn to offer products that eliminate complexity.

-- MR Rangaswami, Founder, Sand Hill Group

A Relentless Pursuit Of Perfection

Steve was one of the first visionaries to make technology accessible to the masses, demystifying technology and making it easy to use. He helped to show the industry the need to think differently and break out of established paradigms, which has had a profound impact from consumers to enterprises.

The relentless pursuit of perfection that he championed at Apple is an approach that many established companies can learn from to continue to delight and expand their customer base. There will only ever be one Steve Jobs, but hopefully for the industry, there will be many who will aspire to become the next Steve Jobs.

-- Manjit Singh, CIO, Las Vegas Sands Corp.

His Genius: Pulling It All Together

Despite knowing this day was inevitable, I am surprised at the feelings of sadness and loss I feel. I am not an Apple zealot by any means, and our company has few Apple products. But I watched as Microsoft got Windows on track by copying Apple’s designs. And most recently, I watch many smartphone manufacturers copy Apple’s designs.

Today I am reading about Steve Job as an innovator. I don’t really see his product innovation prowess as the characteristic that sets him apart from the rest. It was his ability to pull it all together--design, manufacturing, cost, supply chain, marketing, financing, distribution--all of it. And he did it with genuine passion for creating a better quality of life. Really, what other CEO can you say that about?

-- Mike Cuddy, VP and CIO, Toromont Industries

One Of Those Very Rare People

The few individuals who have the ability to innovate and create things that we didn't realize we needed--and then deliver them on a massive scale in a way that impacts millions of people’s lives--are those very rare people who will be admired for generations: Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Bill Gates ... Steve Jobs.

--Dave Bent, senior VP of eBusiness services and CIO, United Stationers

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