"Follow the money" is classic advice for investigative journalists, auditors and entrepreneurs. But for CIOs? That doesn't quite compute. If anything, CIOs have a reputation for being risk-averse and hypercautious with corporate dollars-just ask any hot-eyed startup CEO who's ever pitched to one of you.
Yet as IT leaders raise the bar on their business relevance and contribute more directly to corporate growth-as many already do-a complex job description adds yet another layer. "Being CIO is not just about running the shop anymore, but the different ways you can help your business," says CIO Tom Uva of Sensis, a private airline and defense services company. He's one of the revenue-generating CIOs profiled in our cover story (" How to Turn a Great IT Idea Into a Commercial Success"), which highlights how entrepreneurial CIOs are turning internal IT capabilities into new lines of business.
At companies as diverse as FedEx, Union Pacific, Quintiles Transnational and Sensis, new business opportunities are growing organically out of IT. Our story tracks these four CIOs along the winding road from idea generation to product launch, sharing their advice and lessons learned along the way.
At $17 billion Union Pacific, for example, CIO Lynden Tennison runs one business selling workforce-management software and another supplying telecommunications bandwidth. "We looked around at things and thought, 'Hey, we can make some money on that,'" he says. But making that leap from cool idea to cool millions takes a lot of internal work-and intestinal fortitude-because it requires coping with such wide-ranging difficulties as cost accounting, political hurdles and skills gaps in your IT staff.
The notion of profiting from internal IT capabilities isn't brand new, of course, but today's cloud technologies and the recovering economy are creating a warmer, more welcoming climate.
So how's the weather in your company these days? We'd love to hear your story, too.
Maryfran Johnson is the editor in chief of CIO Magazine & Events. Email her at [email protected].
Read more about innovation in CIO's Innovation Drilldown.