Smart CIOs understand the financial levers used in different parts of the company to ease or increase pressure. At WD-40, for example, a money mind-set pervades IT. CIO Hoagland says that's partly because it's a small company--$343 million in sales for 2012--but a big brand. He knows, for example, that revenue per employee is about $1 million. He likes the attitude of one of the newer members of his staff who, when looking at the cost of new systems, asks, "How many cans of WD-40 are we going to have to sell to buy that?"
That kind of thinking is especially valuable in tough times, says Bill Haser, CIO of Tenneco. As the global recession erases some investment projects from a CIO's wish list, Haser says, another way to elevate IT is to improve processes. Tenneco isn't suffering; sales have jumped 55% since 2009, from $4.6 billion to $7.2 billion for 2012. The company, which makes emissions-control and ride-control systems for cars and other vehicles, benefits from the stricter and more complex environmental regulations emerging worldwide, Haser says.
But rather than push for an IT spending spree, Haser's big goal right now is to make sure employee productivity rates match company growth. To do that, he will combine new technology with new processes. He wants to use cloud computing and other newer technologies to help employees be more effective. For example, in an effort to improve the productivity of existing employees, Haser set up cloud versions of project-management software and a human resources tool. "We don't want to add headcount at the same level we're adding revenue," he says.
Like other CIOs in our survey, Haser is training his staff to be better partners with peers outside IT, and he's developing their cross-functional know-how. He started "technology councils" in 2010, where IT managers periodically meet with tech-savvy managers in a given business unit to discuss the future. Sometimes a council focuses on one issue, such as new ways to measure emissions. As a result of a council held last year, IT is helping Tenneco engineers on different continents use collaboration software to share product designs more easily.
"We say, 'Here's the strategic intersection between what you want to do with the business and what IT can do,'" Haser explains.
Research Director Carolyn Johnson contributed to this report.
Kim Nash is a senior editor for CIO Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @knash99.