February 25, 2013, 11:17 AM — Three years ago, Marlo Donate lit a fire under Toyota Financial Services, a traditionally conservative, risk-averse company that often took two years to bring a new idea to market. She challenged the group to get up to speed with its competitors.
Today she leads the enterprise applications group and the newly created digital services group, a six-member, in-house development team focused on mobile and Web operations.
The Torrance, Calif.-based company doesn't hire new people or create new business units very often, Donate says, so "[convincing] our management committee that we need to be agile and flexible with changes in the mobile and Web space was pretty significant."
First, the team had to prove itself with delivery of its mobile Click to Pay app for iPhones, Android and the Web -- a tall order considering that the team's marketing partners had a bad track record with IT. But Donate worked closely with that team to develop some proofs of concept to ensure they were delivering, even exceeding, what had been promised.
As part of digital services, Donate also launched an innovation lab that works with the development team. "It really was a game-changer on how to have a conversation with the business," she says. "We also introduced a prototyping tool, so it's easier [for business units] to see what they're going to get, instead of 30 pages" of text.
Donate's leadership style is one of collaboration and execution, says Ron Guerrier, vice president and CIO at TFS, who was responsible for hiring her. "She has inserted in the IT delivery team the tenacity to not only plan [a new project], but execute upon it," he says.