Meet the 2016 Premier 100

The annual Computerworld Premier 100 awards shine a spotlight on individuals who have had a positive impact on their organization through technology.

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This year’s honorees represent more than 20 industries and organizations of all sizes, so you’re sure to find a project that piques your interest. Many of these technology executives -- some just starting out, and others well along in their careers -- also identify the title they aspire to someday. Their ideas could help you map out your own IT trajectory.

Deborah Scott

Deborah Scott

Title
CIO

Employer
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Location
Worcester, Mass.

Career highlight:
One of my inaugural tasks starting with the 2010-11 academic year was to put IT research computing on the map at WPI. I partnered with faculty members and the director of IT research computing to determine the right scope and size of the task. I then spent two years building a team that consults with faculty to provide the technology infrastructure for WPI’s expanding interdisciplinary research programs. Since 2012, our annual research grant award volume has almost doubled, and WPI has seen an 82% increase in research expenditures. This research computing team and infrastructure has enabled efforts in areas such as medical robotics, image-guided surgery and human-robot interaction, often using prototype parts fabricated using 3D printers.

How are you using reverse-mentoring to learn from younger generations?
I mentor a WPI employee, a younger woman in another department, through the WPI human resources mentorship program. We meet monthly, and I encourage her to think outside the box, and turn challenges into opportunities. I also get to learn about her job of supporting online students. We are now working on a project that she proposed; it involves implementing a retention system that she can use in her job to facilitate online student success. It’s exciting to be a mentor and get a learning opportunity as well.

Gregory R. Simpson

Gregory R. Simpson

Title
Senior vice president and CTO

Employer
Synchrony Financial

Location
Kettering, Ohio

Career highlight:
I went with an executive team to Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia looking for ways to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates. Traveling to remote parts of Africa and seeing how our technology was applied in some of the most difficult conditions in the world gave me a new appreciation for what the customer really needs.

Emerging technology that has captured your interest:
It’s the recombination of existing technology into entirely new marketplaces. A simple example is the Fitbit: Bluetooth, accelerometer and smartphone -- then presto -- an entirely new social ecosystem around fitness.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
The Apple Watch has just scratched the surface of wearables. In five years, wearables will have expanded beyond our limbs and will simply be smart technology embedded into all sorts of everyday objects. This will enable personalization on a massive scale. No need for paper flyers at a store. You will have a personalized flyer delivered to your smart device when you walk in. Price comparisons and personalized deals will be presented automatically.

Maheshwar Singh

Maheshwar Singh

Title
Senior IT manager

Employer
Sona Group

Location
Gurgaon, India

Emerging technology that has captured your interest:
The Internet of Things, enhanced unified communications systems and the bring-your-own-device movement. We are planning to introduce IoT on a bigger scale to show the entire manufacturing system on a dashboard.

A recent innovative staff idea:
Migrating noncritical systems to the cloud.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
The future of IT will be all about big data and cloud computing.

Biggest technology disappointment in the past year:
Link load-balancing

New titles in your IT organization:
IT security officer

Adam L. Stanley

Adam L. Stanley

Title
Global CIO

Employer
Cushman & Wakefield

Location
Chicago

Coolest project:
We are exploring augmented- and virtual-reality viewing for property using Oculus Rift and 3D-printed camera mounts.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
Office leasing will extend beyond the building to offices housed in self-driving mobile vehicles.

Biggest technology disappointment in the past year:
3D printing; we’re still not seeing the value.

New titles in your IT organization:
The role of global technology director for innovation was eliminated. Innovation is now part of every leader’s job. We have a small team of leaders who work to encourage and accelerate innovation in every market.

Skills you will hire for this year:
Innovators and engineers. I need people who can listen to users’ business requirements and come up with innovative ways to meet their needs.

Your vendor management strategy:
Everyone must be a supplier relationship manager now. In the old days, central vendor management organizations controlled these relationships because there were complex deals with large vendors. Dealing with many SaaS providers and startups requires very different skills.

Title you aspire to:
CEO

Read Stanley’s full profile.

Renee Tran

Renee Tran

Title
Vice president, IT Client Solutions

Employer
Parsons Corp.

Location
Washington

Emerging technology that has captured your interest:
Increased spending on mobile apps development for quick hits and 3D printing for design models to increase customer satisfaction.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
The next five years will be extraordinarily futuristic in that we will be able to deliver whatever our imaginations can dream up. I predict that, in the area of consumer technology, driverless cars will be an accepted norm, improving safety and optimizing traffic flow, and wearable technology will increasingly integrate function with fashion.

New titles in your IT organization:
Because of our focus on business alignment in all areas, including sales and marketing, operational efficiencies and financial management, we’ve added a data analyst to our group. We’ve also added a data categorization project manager to manage company data from a perspective that takes into account our storage and retention needs, as well as security standards and policies.

Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson

Title
CIO

Employer
Accenture

Location
Miami

Career highlight:
Running the mission-critical information systems for a major financial exchange. The willingness of Accenture to trust me to do big things at a young age is something that I look back on with pride and a sense of accomplishment for having made a difference.

Coolest project:
To grow and extend Accenture’s video and broadcast services we transformed hundreds of existing telepresence and videoconference rooms into a global network of studios and repurposed TV production equipment to deliver capabilities beyond their original intent, so we can now build a full global TV network and channel setup.

A recent example of your personal leadership style:
I enjoy being a model for the virtual work environment, and I find that communicating through live broadcast and video that can easily be viewed on various devices enables me to communicate one-to-one consistently, predictably and with a human touch to thousands of people globally in our IT organization.

Kirsten O. Wolberg

Kirsten O. Wolberg

Title
Vice president of technology

Employer
PayPal

Location
San Jose

Emerging technology that has captured your interest:
PayPal has partnered with Samsung to deliver wearable technologies. We will continue to collaborate with partners in this space to enable us to deliver a frictionless payments experience to our customers.

Biggest technology disappointment in the past year:
Videoconferencing technology. With a global organization, it is critical that teams have the ability to collaborate across geographies. Videoconferencing must be frictionless. Fortunately, in the wake of the eBay-PayPal split, we now have a new back end that eliminates the need to spend the first 10 to 15 minutes of every meeting trying to get everyone connected.

Skills you will hire for this year:
Mobile, Node, Java, big data and cloud infrastructure. PayPal has a robust skill-building and training program that has enabled us to build and grow world-class mobile, Node and Java programmers within the organization.

Title you aspire to:
Chief operating officer. My experience is an equal mix of product, operations and technology. I’d like to bring these capabilities together in a COO role.

Paul W. Wright

Paul W. Wright

Title
Vice president of IT and CIO

Employer
Accuride Corp.

Location
Evansville, Ind.

Emerging technology that has captured your interest:
We are planning to introduce wearables linked to our ERP system, Plex, in the next 12 months. We think there are significant opportunities for improved productivity on the shop floor using connected devices like smartglasses and smartwatches.

How are you using reverse-mentoring to learn from younger generations?
Our strong co-op program provides a great opportunity for all of our team members to learn from the less experienced people on the team. The ideas and projects that they have brought forward have been incorporated into our ERP implementation and security upgrade projects.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
Wearables and augmented reality will take over a variety of industries -- but will be especially valuable in a manufacturing environment. The biggest uses will be in safety and connections to machines.

A recent example of your personal leadership style:
The Golden Rule is to treat others as you expect to be treated. I believe in the Platinum rule: Treat others the way they want to be treated. This is part of my personal leadership philosophy that I walk through with every one of my team members.

Sherri L. Zink

Sherri L. Zink

Title
Senior vice president and chief data and engagement officer

Employer
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

Location
Chattanooga, Tenn.

How are you using reverse-mentoring to learn from younger generations?
The younger generation understands how to visualize data to tell a story. They’ve grown up with digital devices so they know the power of technology, predictive algorithms and simple navigation. Leveraging these concepts has helped me showcase the value of data throughout our organization and has sparked new innovative product ideas for our customers.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
The lines between business and IT will continue to blur. As companies strive to create differentiation through technology, more business owners will assume responsibility for IT development functions while many IT experts will become more customer-facing. This will occur more rapidly in the digital and analytics space with the emergence of new C-suite leadership roles like chief digital officers and chief data officers. Consolidation of these business and IT roles will drive synergy across the organization, bring IT closer to the customer, and generate new revenue streams for business owners.

Your vendor management strategy:
Within my division, I have consolidated the vendor management and relationship function under one leader and instituted a technology system to track vendor discussions, key capabilities and opportunities for collaboration. This gives my team a centralized tracking tool to determine the level of engagement we want to have with a vendor and how that engagement might fuel innovation initiatives.

Chris Zissis

Chris Zissis

Title
CIO, EMEA

Employer
JLL

Location
London, England

Coolest project:
We are talking to a startup company that has devised a machine-learning technology that can read content, aggregate the information and give us an accurate statement on the rent roll far more quickly than a group of people looking through documents in a data room can. This startup clearly has the potential to support us in our technology and data ambition, but it also could become a disintermediation threat. Niche players and startups are now as much of a threat as traditional competitors.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
The CIO, the chief marketing officer and the chief digital officer will combine under one leadership to offer technology and data services (including those developed in-house as well as those purchased from vendors). IT will have to adapt, because speed will continue to be the metric by which consumers and clients evaluate performance.

Fastest-ROI project:
A low-cost digital inspection tool, where we used all the native capabilities of Apple to create a mobile, secure and user-tailored inspection application. Our teams use the app for site inspections and then send the data back to core systems. This has improved the efficiency and accuracy of our inspections by making it easy to incorporate digital evidence into the process. More than 1,000 people currently use it, and the number is growing.

This story, "Meet the 2016 Premier 100" was originally published by Computerworld.

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