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Mission-critical systems taking on dual roles

Leadership training — in particular, the shaping of future CIOs — was the topic, but as with many conversations about the CIO role, the conversation veered off to a seemingly unrelated topic: mission-critical systems.

More to the point, the talk concerned how CIOs increasingly are finding new uses for the business management systems that have been in place for years. The need to make data more useful to the organization is in part driving this trend, said Bob Rouse, director of the Society for Information Management’s Regional Leadership Forum training program and professor of computer science at Washington University in St. Louis.

“CIOs are expected to make administration systems more efficient and save money for the company, but that isn’t enough,” Rouse said. “They need to make the systems and themselves more valuable to the company.” One way of doing that is by channeling more capabilities through existing systems, he said.

Doing this exposes CIOs to their true customers — the external ones — by improving how the business delivers services to and meets the needs of the people buying its products and services.

To be more industry-specific: Mission-critical systems that gather reams of data can be used to help farmers find better ways to fertilize their fields. Or such systems can help doctors avoid future errors by looking for mistakes in dispensing medications. “Existing systems capture all sorts of data that can be used in new ways to gather intelligence,” Rouse said.

As I was talking to Rouse, another conversation popped into my head, one I had with Jay Leek, vice president of international security at Equifax Inc. He was using his company’s and Equifax customers’ billing systems to identify fraud. By looking at billing systems data and working with the accounting department, he could spot anomalies. For example, he found that one company’s billing systems had been infiltrated by a third party, which was using the systems to bill an Equifax customer for fake services.

In another case, Larry Bonfante, CIO for the United States Tennis Association Inc., is using data analysis from ticket scanners that gives exact on-campus headcounts at the U.S. Open, to pave the way for additional day-pass sales. This equals an additional $1.5 million in revenue for the association. And as Features Writer Karen Goulart explains, Bonfante is looking at more ways to use mission-critical systems to generate revenue. One example is the association’s event management system. It is a coordinated public safety response system created for the U.S. Open that is now being shopped to other large-scale event organizers.

It only makes sense, given that the CIO increasingly is being called on to monetize IT , in addition to running business operations, mentoring staff, tapping mobile devices to serve customers in new ways, helping the business expand its global reach through the cloud or social networking …

Let us know what you think of this blog post; email Christina Torode, News Director.

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