Cloud computing, demand for faster development cycles, the pressure of the consumerization of IT, the rise of big data and analytics, and IT working together with business were among the themes during an opening session at InformationWeek's Elite 100 Conference in Las Vegas Monday.
The elite of the Elite 100 -- a handful of 2015 winners -- took the stage to share their strategies and best practices around these themes in an exclusive opening panel discussion moderated by conference leader Brian Gillooly and featuring Jim Rinaldi, CIO of Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) (number 3 on 2015 Elite 100); Ger Purcell, SVP of IT at Avnet (number 5 in 2015); Ken Spangler, CIO of FedEx Ground & Freight (number 6 in 2015); Mike Restuccia, VP and CIO at Penn Medicine (number 9 in 2015); and Jeff Hamilton, SVP Business Technology at Pfizer (number 10 in 2015).
Here's what these IT leaders had to say about some of the top issues facing IT today.
How They Drive Innovation
"All the work we do is in partnership with the business," said Hamilton of Pfizer. One big cultural event Pfizer created was a Shark Tank-style competition to allow people within the company to present their ideas for the business. The competition attracted more than 100 ideas, and a few of those were chosen and funded by the business. In fact, one of those funded ideas was nominated for this year's Elite 100.
[Find out more about InformationWeek's Elite 100. Read The Elite 100: Celebrating The People Who Make It Happen.]
Avnet's Purcell said that his organization is pushing hard on digital transformation and the so-called third platform right now. For Avnet the third platform means cloud, social, mobile, and data analytics. The other big area is IoT. "We refer to it as edge to enterprise. We are managing data from the sensor to the enterprise."
Rinaldi of Jet Propulsion Lab said that his IT organization has been working to engage IT customers by offering innovation talks around IT. By its very nature, JPL has a lot of really smart users, Rinaldi said, and they often bring some of the best ideas that are eventually implemented by the IT organization.
FedEx runs a customer-facing innovation group and a technology-facing innovation group. Each of these groups has become a specialist in aligning with their respective business segments, said Spangler. The organization also runs an internal conference "to bring our best and brightest together." In February FedEx even ran its first enterprise-wide Hackathon.
For Penn Medicine, an organization with roots going back 250 years, the goal is to innovate, but without breaking what is working today, Restuccia said.
How Do You Deal With Shadow IT?
"We'll always have shadow IT," said Hamilton. "With the consumerization of IT, more and more folks outside IT are viewing themselves as technologists." Hamilton's organization has turned that around to make IT "the go-to organization" within the company for technology, particularly since it's easier for the enterprise now to actually track rogue projects by looking at finance and other systems. It's harder for shadow IT to hide.
Designing for Executives and Users
What happens when a sponsor within the company wants a particular system, and then the end-users hate it?
"IT has a role to play working with the sponsor," Rinaldi of JPL said. "I have a philosophical view that you work from the customer in, not the other way. You work with people to get input on what they want."
Avnet's Purcell said the company has introduced bimodal IT as a way to help users get what they need -- ease-of-use and better design.
Pfizer has also created a couple of centers of excellence, Hamilton said. These include deeply skilled experts in particular domains, and that has helped in terms of developing speed and impact on the way the company develops solutions.