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CIO advice: IT strategies in a bad economy

CIOs should consider re-evaluating their IT strategies in this economy. Get advice on addressing ROI, innovating and achieving project success in this podcast.

In a bad economy, CIOs need to re-asses their IT strategies. They can do so by addressing some key questions, such as how important is ROI to project success? Is there enough time budgeted for innovation? And how can you initiate projects that correlate to the company's success?

During this podcast, SearchCIO.com Executive Editor Karen Guglielmo interviews Pamela Rucker, vice president of IT at Phillips Services Corp. (PSC), about how to keep projects alive during tight budget times and ways to help CIOs stand out as technology innovators. Questions addressed in the podcast include:

  • How can CIOs draw a direct correlation between the projects they manage and the company's future success?
  • How can CIOs help their teams stand out as technology innovators?
  • How important is ROI still for project approval?

BIOGRAPHY: In her current role as vice president of IT at Houston-based PSC, Rucker has responsibility for all IT governance, business applications and IT shared services for the enterprise. Prior to joining PSC, she worked in several industries managing enterprise initiatives for Fortune 500 firms including JP Morgan Chase, IBM, General Motors Co., First Union and Nabisco. She has also led initiatives for General Electric Capital Corp., The Dun & Bradstreet Corp., GMAC and Cingular.

Rucker has been a featured speaker at Forrester Research Inc.'s Technology Leadership Forum.

Read the full transcript from this podcast below:

Karen Guillermo:Hello. My name is Karen Guillermo, Executive Editor for SearchCio.com, and I'd like to welcome you to today's expert podcast, featuring an interview with Pamela Rucker, Vice President of IT for PSC (Phillips Services Corp.), and speaker at the IT Management Group's upcoming IT Management Conference. In her current role as Vice President of IT for PSC, Pamela has responsibility for all IT governance, business applications, and IT shared services for the enterprise.

Prior to joining PSC, she has worked in several industries managing enterprise initiatives for Fortune 500 firms. Pamela has previously worked in leadership roles at JP Morgan Chase, IBM, GM, First Union, and Nabisco. Over her career, she has also led initiatives for GE Capital, Dun and Bradstreet, GMAC, and Cingular. She has a highly consultative approach and has a track record for creating measurable results.

Pamela has been a featured speaker at Forrester's IT Leadership Conference, CL Magazine's Perspective Conference, and the CIO Executive Summit. She is also a featured speaker at the upcoming IT Management Conference, where she'll talk about, "How to Shine in a Dark Economy". As I mentioned earlier, we're here today to talk to Pamela Rucker about, "How to Shine in a Dark Economy". So, let's get started. First, let me ask you, can you offer the audience some of your best tips for keeping projects alive during these tight budget times?

Pamela Rucker:  Yes. One of the most important things is to understand how your projects provide key efficiency gains. You know, what are they doing to provide additional revenue for the company. Many companies are looking for ways to cut back and they need to make sure that the IT projects that they do have on tap, actually help them make more money.

For instance, front and back office automation projects can help you work more quickly, get things done more accurately, and increase their bottom line. They can also put you in a position of competitive advantage, so you can emerge from the recession better than your competitors. And this is important, because there are many technology based cost cutting projects that you might not have been successful in selling prior to the recession that people will love to hear about today.

Karen Guillermo: Are there any specific ones that you can mention?

Pamela Rucker:  Sure, I mean, looking at opportunities to build more quickly, build at a more advanced fashion, find a way to work more efficiently with Microsoft Office, looking at better ways to reduce paper out of your environment. All of these are ways for us to cut costs, and I'm not sure if other CIOs are having the same challenge, but I'm able to have conversations with my business partners now, about these very initiatives that I could not even get on tap before.

Karen Guillermo: Yeah, good point. Next I wanted to ask you is, how can CIOs draw a direct correlation between the projects they manage, and the company's future success?

Pamela Rucker:  One of the things I think people need to understand, is how they relate to their company's future success. How do you look at what you're going to be doing in the next five years from an IT perspective, and compare that to what the company's doing in the next three to five years. Place your technology initiative at the heart of the company's goal, and then develop a marketing strategy for IT that helps your CEO and your executive peers understand the value of your projects.

For instance, I know where my company wants to be in the next three to five years in regards to environmental and industrial services. So I'm working with the business leaders to understand ways that I can help them create technology initiatives to help them get there. Now, that means that I need to be able to walk their walk and understand their talk, and know their numbers. Be able to explain to them in non-technical terms how a project is going to be directly tied to where the company wants to be in the future and then we can create initiatives that help us draw a correlation between where we are today, and where we want to go in the future.

Karen Guillermo: Okay. How can CIOs help their teams stand out as technology innovators?

Pamela Rucker: Wow. That may come in several different forms. One could be looking at new ways to use existing technology so it creates a new revenue stream. It could mean finding ways to complete work faster. It could mean embracing concepts that... necessity is the mother of invention.

Learn to think outside of the box. Learn to look for new ways to meet your company's goals. Don't wait for your business partners to come to you with an idea, but understand how to research what's happening in your industry and then let your mind develop ways to solve those problems. Ask yourself, "If I was CEO of a company getting paid to do what my business partners do, how would I be more effective?"

You know, I had a conversation with one of my peers recently and said, "If I was told that I was able to be CEO of the division, if I could come up with a technology solution to this problem, I might approach it differently."

And I think, if you find a way to think about that when you go home at night or think about that when you're in your office, if I were made CEO of this division, how would I process this work more accurately? If I knew I could get a big corporate contract by developing a new strategy, what would that strategy be? I think in IT sometimes, we only act as if we have one big bag of tricks, how to run email, how to do networking, etc. When, in fact, we can be very innovative if we put our minds to it. And it might mean we might use strategic visioning, but we can be very effective to think like a CEO.

Karen Guillermo: Great advice. I have time for one more question. In your opinion, how important is ROI, still, for project approval?

Pamela Rucker: You know, I think ROI's still critical. We tend to toss it out of the window, but it's important for people to be able to demonstrate that they have an economic return on those technology investments. Learn to put that in business language so people understand the big picture of what you're spending money for. And be able to demonstrate how quickly they'll be able to get a return on the money they're spending for in technology. You know, in these days, money is tight and there are many options for where CEOs might want to spend money in the future. If you can help the CEO, and the CFO, understand that technology is going to bring in revenue, or increase their bottom line, that ROI becomes even more critical for your success.

Karen Guillermo: Okay. And on that note, that does conclude today's podcast. Thanks again to Pamela Rucker for speaking with us today. Thank you all for listening, and have a great day.

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