From Chicago’s Streets to Denver’s Peaks…

September 27, 2011

This Land Was Made for Innovation
This September was a big month for the Harvey Nash CIO Forum events as we visited both Denver and Chicago in our global road show dedicated to our annual CIO Survey. I have always noticed differences–some subtle and some glaring–in these two IT communities in my visits with clients and local technology groups. However, this year the mood in both cities was identical.

Was the atmosphere nervous because of unsteady global marketplace? Depressed from poor employment releases and economic indicators? Not one bit on either count. These events were packed with enthusiastic and competitive IT executives and professionals who everywhere see opportunity and a chance for technology teams to play a central, vocal role in their business’s strategic growth. Part of me kept waiting for recession clouds to gather over the events–after all, the media keeps pushing them on us wherever we go–but neither Chicago nor Denver would have any of it.
I would like to give you a few short topic highlights to share the ideas that did captivate our CIO panels and IT executive attendees. My goal is to give you a real-world sense of the energy, hope and creativity I am seeing in IT communities across the U.S. I also want to thank the talented CIOs who served on our panels and gave our audiences a ton of interesting ideas to debate and strategies to consider.
Topic Highlights From Chicago’s CIO Forum
Innovation – Innovation was a central discussion point in Chicago where the majority of IT leaders and CIO panelists agreed that the role of IT innovation must be about changing the business and/or finding new revenue opportunities versus driving incremental increases across the business. The innovation discussion took an interesting twist as the talk examined Agile development and how it could further innovation activities. As participants examined Agile’s potential in fostering innovation, CIO panelist Ken O’Brien of RR Donnelley questioned whether or not it was fast enough and if businesses using Agile could compete with the speed and creativity of “dorm-room” velocity development.
IT & the Business – The separation of IT and the business was also a major topic of discussion at the Chicago event as attendees explored if technology was playing a role throughout businesses in eroding the separation. With CIOs and their IT organizations playing an increasing role in strategic business projects and plans, some businesses now put their IT development teams directly into the business units and teams they support. While the barriers or lack of barriers between IT and the business are different for every business, it’s clear from the Chicago event that IT’s role across the business is increasing for every business.
Topic Highlights From Denver’s CIO Forum
Innovation – Innovation and its critical role in helping businesses identify and take advantage of market opportunities was also a central discussion point in Denver. Business leaders at the event spoke to the fact that IT innovation today has to go far beyond finding new efficiencies. IT innovation today should be focused on driving growth and tapping into new market opportunities. The idea was thrown out that in today’s marketplace, all businesses need to be technology businesses in one way or another. Technology’s pervasiveness requires technology acumen and innovation from every business, no matter the industry, no matter the size.
Cloud Computing – The growth of cloud computing was an important topic in Denver as attendees debated what businesses–big or small–benefit most from it. The panel asked whether the name, cloud computing, was deterring smaller businesses that see it as an expensive trend for global enterprises. One thoughtful panelist pointed out that if you use the words “on demand” small businesses are much more accepting of cloud computing because they know and understand it.
Both Forums ended late as questions continued to flood the panelists, and attendees debated how to drive innovation, leverage emerging technologies and balance efficiency with the need for growth and greater competitiveness. As the talks went on and people stayed late, I was reminded of this fact: No matter how big and diverse America is, the drive to compete, the creativity to invent and the hopefulness needed to earnestly pursue bold ideas and big goals is one of our richest resources.
Once again I’d like to thank the Chicago and Denver CIO Forum Panelists and I invite you to contact me at to learn more about the 2011 Harvey Nash CIO Survey.
Chicago Panelists
• Patricia Anderson, CTO,
• Ken O’Brien, CIO, RR Donnelley
• Bruce Schinelli, VP CIO, TTX Company
• John Vasilj, Former CTO, Chicago Transit Authority
• Andre Zardini, CIO, Rewards Network
Denver Panelists
• Mark Hagan, CIO/SVP of IT, EMSC/American Medical Response
• Stan Hume, CTO, Policy Studies
• Bill Perkins, CTO, Verecloud
• Brian Scriber, CTO, Open Scan Technologies, Inc.
• Philip Winterburn, CIO, Rivet Software