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CIO lessons in change management

Four veteran women CIOs discuss how they've embraced change.

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Crayola LLC, whose iconic crayons now come boxed in 120 shades and bouquets of "Silly Scents," will soon be using software from SAP AG for its order-to-cash process and for manufacturing. Even the best-planned ERP implementations can go seriously awry, but CIO Sandra Brandon says she isn't much concerned about the technology, or whether the company's network is up to snuff or indeed about "pulling it all together" to make the major project a go.

"I am concerned, because the way that every single person in our organization does their job and values themselves is going to change," said Brandon, a certified pilot who joined Easton, Pa.-based Crayola six years ago. "Nothing they do from here on forward is going to look anything like what they do right now."

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Brandon was one of four women who spoke last week at an event held by the New York chapter of Women in Technology International about leading change at their organizations as CIOs. Sponsored by Columbia University's Center for Technology, Innovation and Community Engagement, the panel also featured Harriet Edelman, who retired this month as CIO at New York-based Avon Products Inc. after 29 years at the world's largest direct seller of cosmetics; Candace Fleming, CIO of Columbia University since mid-2005; and Beatrice Leon, CIO for Pernod Ricard Americas in Purchase, N.Y., a subsidiary of the giant French spirits producer Pernod Ricard SA.

In a lively 90-minute discussion, the CIOs dissected how and why they embraced change during their successful careers, from navigating mergers and acquisitions and re-engineering IT infrastructures, to changing the perception of IT at their corporations. Crayola's Brandon, for example, quickly rebranded IS from information systems to information solutions, to signal the can-do aspirations of her team. Pernod's Leon recounted her migration as CIO from a basement cubbyhole to a corner office, through building credibility for the broken IT department she inherited. Leadership is crucial to driving such changes, the women agreed.

So, it seems, is human contact. At the core of many of the career anecdotes and advice was a concern for people -- for nurturing their employees' strengths, for cultivating a workplace of mutual respect and the necessity of finding a network of peers to share ideas with and ease the sometimes lonely job of the CIO.

Here are some of their stories:

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer

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