Premier 100 IT Leader: Rick Mears

Aligning IT investments with business goals is this CIO's golden rule.

In 2011 when Owens & Minor decided to invest $50 million in IT upgrades over three years, the company established a group of business unit leaders to oversee the spending. That team has since become a core part of CIO Rick Mears' efforts to position the company's IT organization for the future.

Rick Mears

Every other week, Mears holds two-hour meetings with "Team CIO" to discuss IT issues and identify opportunities for improving processes through technology. That approach, involving operations-level vice presidents from 10 business units, has served the distributor of medical and surgical supplies well in the past two years, says Mears.

For example, in 2013, the team signed off on a long-term initiative to equip sales representatives with tablet computers that provide real-time access to key customer-specific information, such as sales history and purchase orders. The technology has enabled sales teams to manage customer relationships more efficiently and at considerably lower cost than they could with the company's previous Microsoft Dynamics CRM package, says Mears.

That's an important tool, because each day more than 4,000 hospitals place about 350,000 orders for supplies with Owens & Minor, and the company has to fill those orders within 24 hours.

Mears, 53, is confident that Team CIO will continue to help the company align IT initiatives with business goals.

"The role of the CIO is not to worry about keeping your systems running," he says. "To me, the value of the CIO role is in finding the right places to make investments in technology that will transform your company or your customer experience."

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