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.

Stephen J. Gold

Stephen J. Gold

Title
Executive vice president and CIO

Employer
CVS Health

Location
Woonsocket, R.I.

Career highlight:
I built the world’s largest Internet pharmacy from scratch, which at its peak was doing $7.5 billion in sales. It was very exciting, digital pioneering work in the early 2000s.

Coolest project:
The use of beacon technology within our retail stores to deliver highly targeted personalized offers and messages to customers.

A recent innovative staff idea:
Our staff began testing the use of enhanced biometrics such as facial recognition for authentication of our patients who use our mobile applications for secure transactions.

How are you using reverse-mentoring to learn from younger generations?
We built an innovation laboratory in Boston that helps attract younger-generation employees and business partners. Their knowledge, insights and preferences are critical to the success of our digital and social programs.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
The pendulum will swing more toward CIOs who are professionally trained computer scientists or engineers. Today there is a mix -- some are IT-focused and some are business-focused. With cloud integration, big data and security all being high on everyone’s agenda, it will be increasingly difficult to succeed without strong technical leadership.

James Grech

James Grech

Title
CIO, Technology Services Group

Employer
BNY Mellon

Location
Jersey City, N.J.

Emerging technology that has captured your interest:
We are in a period of unbelievable innovation associated with cloud computing. Making the right choices regarding proprietary versus open technologies and picking the right partners to work with will be crucial for the companies that come out ahead of the pack in this space.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
Large IT organizations will have to finally measure and make decisions based on the productivity per dollar spent as opposed to pure expense reduction. Cost reduction exercises will turn into discussions about value delivered per dollar spent.

New titles in your IT organization:
Service owner. We no longer deliver technology products; we have transformed into a service-oriented organization. All service owners can articulate the full life cycle of the service they deliver and have a full understanding of their customers.

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
Based on a positive business case, if an emerging technology can amplify or accelerate our technology strategy and mission, it deserves a hard look.

Sheryl L. Haislet

Sheryl L. Haislet

Title
Vice president of IT, Power Solutions Division

Employer
Johnson Controls

Location
Milwaukee

New titles in your IT organization:
Vendor relationship manager. This role helps to ensure the success of, and ongoing improvements to, the services delivered from large providers.

A recent example of your personal leadership style:
I strongly believe in management by walking around, connecting and interacting with the extended team. In a recent visit to China, I spent time conducting skip-level meetings with many of the team members. This one-on-one time is crucial to getting to know all employees, their talents and their desires.

How do you find time to innovate?
We schedule one or two innovation trips per year. In addition to understanding the road maps of current companies we do business with, we visit a few innovative companies outside our industry to see how we could apply their ideas within our business.

Title you aspire to:
I aspire to be on a board of directors. To help other companies use technology effectively to secure their environment, lower costs and drive top-line growth.

Arpad Hevizi

Arpad Hevizi

Title
Senior vice president and CIO

Employer
Celestica

Location
Toronto, Ontario

Coolest project:
We have completely redesigned the way we enable learning and development and crowdsourcing in our company. We created a unified environment where our employees declare their natural strengths, their skills, focus areas and interests. Based on that information, they can create a guided learning pathway to accelerate their progress, find mentors or collaborate partners with similar strengths, skills and interests.

A recent innovative staff idea:
Completely re-architecting our analytics platform for massive parallel computing to take advantage of distributed computing platform on Azure.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
As the pace of technology is accelerating, successful IT leaders can become chief innovation officers, combining an entrepreneurial mindset and a focus on unlocking talent everywhere, and spotting technology breakthroughs and analytics to engage the CEO and business unit leaders to drive innovation. I expect that 5% of IT organization can cross the chasm from innovation enabler to innovation driver.

A recent example of your personal leadership style:
I have a coaching and mentoring leadership style and am passionate about strength-based leadership principles. I am actively leading an executive mentoring circle for eight emerging global leaders in the company. Recently I helped one of my global directors realign his career plan and project assignments based on his natural strengths and passions to increase his impact and job satisfaction. It created a win-win as he is now leading one of my key strategic initiatives.

William F. Hills

William F. Hills

Title
Executive vice president and CIO

Employer
Navy Federal Credit Union

Location
Vienna, Va.

Career highlight:
Early on, while trying to improve my level as a tennis player, I wrote a tennis charting system on an HP programmable calculator and later on an Osborne 1 portable. While not commercially successful, the programming led me from a career as an energy conservation economist to a computer professional.

New titles in your IT organization:
As we have moved to become a services-based organization, we’ve added the titles of service owner, service manager and resource manager. In addition, we’ve added the more traditional titles and roles of deputy CIO, CTO, vice president of the project management office, and assistant vice president of enterprise data strategy and services.

What’s the most important task you’ve delegated?
As part of the new organizational structure I implemented, I added the role of the deputy CIO, and I’ve delegated all of the operational functions the CIO previously performed to the deputy. This has freed me to focus on the strategic direction of the information services and technology organization within Navy Federal.

Chris Hjelm

Chris Hjelm

Title
Executive vice president and CIO

Employer
The Kroger Co.

Location
Cincinnati

Coolest project:
We are piloting an innovative digital shelf-edge technology. This was a ground-up effort over the past two to three years, and I believe the project will deliver transformational change in retail.

Biggest technology disappointment in the past year:
The Apple Watch. It had so much hype, but I find very few people who are raving fans.

What’s the most important task you’ve delegated?
We recently went through an organization redesign. I gave my chief of staff, Annette Hater, the responsibility of leading the detailed design, planning and communication with my staff. She did a great job making sure the organization aligned to the company’s needs, and she did a really good job connecting the change with the Kroger technology team.

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
We route technologies that naturally align with a project or business unit to the appropriate IT team. If it is further-out technology, then it usually goes to our R&D team as they have more degrees of freedom to innovate. We try to make sure to not replicate evaluation of technologies in multiple teams to keep costs down and to accelerate good technologies.

Read Hjelm’s full profile.

Mukhtar Hussain

Mukhtar Hussain

Title
CIO

Employer
Fauji Fertilizer Co.

Location
Rawalpindi, Pakistan

A recent innovative staff idea:
Cost savings are driven by standardization or automation of services and IT resources. Standardization and automation reduce operational costs and enable IT personnel to focus more on servicing end users than on activities with little or no added value, such as allocating disk space or configuring software. With the successful provisioning of a private cloud, we have effectively introduced cost-effectiveness and efficient utilization of resources.

How do you find time to innovate?
A specified time slot needs to be set aside for innovation and then purposefully marked on the calendar. This will teach others in your sphere of influence to recognize the importance of creativity and innovation, and its impact on the overall performance of the team.

Joe Iannello

Joe Iannello

Title
Vice president and CIO

Employer
Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Location
Austin, Texas

Emerging technology that has captured your interest:
All things mobile, and autonomous vehicles.

Coolest project:
Our mobile ticketing app, working with one of the smartest companies in the world, and replacement of a legacy ERP system with a latest-generation ERP system with significant process improvements.

How are you using reverse-mentoring to learn from younger generations?
Always have an open-door policy, take a team-based approach, and consistently solicit ideas and recommendations using formal and informal methods.

Fastest-ROI project:
Implementation of Microsoft Office365 including SharePoint and CRM, and Dynamics AX.

Beth Johnson

Beth Johnson

Title
Senior vice president

Employer
SunTrust Banks

Location
Atlanta

Coolest project:
Applying predictive analytics techniques on the defect data from testing to predict risk in future releases.

A recent innovative staff idea:
Our delivery teams have been asking to speed up the testing cycles. One of my release team members came up with the idea to run two batch cycles per week. This will cut the testing cycle time by half. We are working to alter the schedule and effectively implement this idea.

Your vendor management strategy:
With our adoption of managed services, I now work very closely with vendors. I have given them more accountability to perform their jobs and treat them as equal partners.

How do you find time to innovate?
Innovation isn’t an afterthought; it’s built into every action. I’ve created an “Innovation Tuesday” forum for people to share ideas. An innovation council then reviews those ideas and decides whether to take action.

Rama Kolappan

Rama Kolappan

Title
General manager and head of Information & Mobility Management

Employer
Commvault

Location
San Jose

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
The overarching technologies, such as cloud, mobility and big data, will continue to mature and will see increased adoption. The Internet of Things will see a huge adoption with self-aware and self-discovering devices. With these new and emerging technologies, security and authentication will continue to play a key role.

Skills you will hire for this year:
There is a huge transformation occurring in the area of information management and mobile devices. We are always looking for talent in the area of converged infrastructure, mobile and big data management. We are hiring some external talent, but we also encourage cross-functional staff movement and hiring.

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
When we’re working with our customers on emerging technology trends, we first evaluate their environment and then recommend a technology solution that can address their data management problem, highlighting their short- and long-term returns. We make sure that there is a positive business impact and meets their needs. We offer pilot programs and proofs of concept they can test, evaluate and then deploy across the organization.

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