Making the Leap

By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2007-02-15 Print this article Print

A new kind of CIO—a blend of business strategist and operations tinkerer—is rising to power beyond I.T.

Making the Leap

Some of today's best CIOS don't stay CIOs. Dozens of former chief information officers now fill the top corporate jobs of chief executive and head of operations. They are the first movers in the rise of a new kind of CIO: an executive who transcends the role of technology manager to become, at once, a big thinker and someone who can tune operations with technology to drive a company.

Multibillion-dollar companies like Amazon.com and Google wouldn't exist without technology, of course. But neither would the current incarnations of stalwarts such as car maker Ford Motor, trucking company Schneider National, drug-store chain Walgreen and casino Harrah's Entertainment.

As technology remakes companies, the CIO managing it now has unprecedented visibility and career opportunity. But populating the corner office with former information-technology leaders doesn't guarantee success. It's unclear what may happen, for example, at Vantagemed or Drugstore.com, which have lost money for years and have ex-CIOs for CEOs.

Many other companies, meanwhile, are making chief operating officers and presidents out of CIOs, including Athenahealth, Fifth Third Bancorp, Microsoft, Pacer International and tool maker Snap-On. A list of 51 who have gotten such promotions starts on this page.

Lloyd DeVaux, 54, was promoted from CIO to COO two years ago at BankAtlantic, a $702 million bank in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He says he would love to be a CEO someday. "I feel like I have to put some time in as a COO and continue to develop," he says. He has an M.B.A. and is enrolled in a three-year executive education program at Harvard. "You can't always create the opportunity, but you can be ready for it."

Steve Matheys, executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer service at Schneider National, dismisses the saw that chief information officers are mired in a techie realm, unable even to make themselves understood by peers from other parts of the company. "CIOs have a lot more business knowledge than I think sometimes people give them credit for," says Matheys, 48, who was CIO at the $3.5 billion trucking company for six years before taking his current position in 2004. He reports to CEO Chris Lofgren, who himself was Schneider's CIO for four years.

"When I was CIO, I was spending 70% of my time on business issues and 30% on technical issues," he says. "I.T. writes the code that executes the rules of the business. Extremely deep insight comes from that."

Next page: Keep Dreaming

Senior Writer
Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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