Get to know the Premier 100 Class of 2017

The annual Computerworld Premier 100 awards shine a spotlight on individuals who have had a positive impact on their organization through technology.

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Prabhakar Sahadeo Posam

Prabhakar Sahadeo Posam

Title
Head of IT, digital and process

Employer
Transworld Group (formerly Head of IT and business process at PAE)

Location
Mumbai, India

Boldest prediction for the next 5 years:
Cloud vendors will take over infrastructure management and CIOs will be redefined as chief innovation officers.

Skills you’ll hire for:
I would like to add internet of things skills to my team by training existing staffers.

What’s the most important task you’ve delegated this year?
Research on new technologies to my innovation team members.

How has your vendor management strategy changed?
Vendor payments are now linked to a project’s ROI.

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
I read research document, watch videos and study case studies.

How do you find time to innovate?
I always keep 25% of my work time for innovation.

What title do you aspire to?
CEO

How have you created work/life balance?
I don’t like my team to work late, so I insist they plan their schedules in advance.

Phil Potloff

Phil Potloff

Title
Chief digital officer

Employer
Edmunds

Location
Santa Monica, Calif.

What emerging tech has captured your interest?
Blockchain has the potential to transform industries. The technology underpinning bitcoin currency could be a game-changer in maintaining transactional records over time. Last May, we hosted a blockchain hackathon and identified three or four applications that could ultimately transform vehicle records and transactions, including DMV records.

An innovative staff idea:
We’re exploring ways to place a vehicle in your range of sight and allow you to interact with it. At a recent hackathon, we asked participants to determine how to insert a car into a defined space (a garage or parking space, for example).

Fast ROI project:
We formed a unit called the ad technology group in one year, and it developed the fastest-growing product (Edmunds Ad Solutions) in the history of the company — a digital agency that we’ve already added to our core product portfolio. This was a business initiative that came directly out of IT.

How do you find time to innovate?
Be deliberate about creating events and thought opportunities around new ideas that are relevant to company priorities. Then utilize hackathons, contests (both internal and external), accelerators and other means to explore new ideas.

Kaushik Ray

Kaushik Ray

Title
Vice president, Global Architecture and Customer Engineering

Employer
Sungard Availability Services

Location
Great Falls, Va.

Biggest tech disappointment?
The fad-driven hype cycle in the industry. Take big data. It’s not the technology that disappoints me, but the way it was oversold. Few companies have seen any return on their projects. They thought it was as simple as buying the right product. It’s not.

Personal leadership style?
The cliché of “undercommit and overdeliver” is wrong. If you aim high, you land high. My people know that I have high standards, and I don’t accept anything less than their best efforts. I also believe in treating people like adults. Work should be fun, and the work environment flexible.

Skills you’ll hire for:
I manage a group of architects, so excellent technical skills are the price of entry. The big thing for me is communication — presentation, writing and verbal communication skills. The ability to engage with a customer is critical. Technology skills are easy to acquire; good communication takes training and practice.

How do you find time to innovate?
If you have to find time to innovate, you have the wrong mindset. Innovation is a style of thinking — it’s not a point-in-time activity. If you don’t naturally think innovatively, if that’s not in your DNA, I don’t think you can innovate.

Jamshid Rezaei

Jamshid Rezaei

Title
CIO

Employer
Mitel

Location
Kanata, Ontario

What emerging tech has captured your interest?
5G and IoT, as mobile and cloud technologies continue to intersect, the opportunities will be endless. Users will benefit from 5G’s higher speed and wider coverage, which will create expanded service levels and mobile cloud experiences.

An innovative staff idea:
The Mitel Connect customer portal, a single global access point for Mitel customers. In addition to single sign-on, identity management and self-service tools, Mitel Connect is an enabler of our acquisition strategy, providing quick onboarding of newly acquired customers. Prebuilt APIs allow integration of third-party applications, reducing systems migration time.

How are you using reverse-mentoring?
We’re adopting student apprentice programs from various countries (in line with Mitel’s global culture) and engaging them in innovative projects such as e-business, business applications and infrastructure transformations. This gives us a perfect opportunity to build a bridge between technologies of the new generation and experienced technology professionals.

Boldest prediction for the next 5 years:
Digitalization and microservices on the cloud will change the face of traditional IT organizations to the point that most will end up being dissolved within the functional business areas.

Fast ROI project:
Over the past 12 months, we launched a major ERP consolidation project. By consolidating four separate ERP systems into one unified program, we brought business processes and resources together and created millions of dollars in savings and operational efficiencies.

 

Olaf Romer

Olaf Romer

Title
Head of corporate IT and group CIO

Employer
Baloise Group

Location
Basel, Switzerland

Coolest current project:
The implementation of a new Baloise Digital Workplace and changing the mindset of collaboration in our group and with our external partners.

How has your vendor management strategy changed in the past few years?
Previously, I viewed vendors simply as suppliers that could be easily replaced. Today, I seek a closer partnership and organizational integration so they can learn from us, understand our needs and thinking, and help us more efficiently. It’s a relationship, not simply a contractual transaction.

How do you find time to innovate?
Each Monday, I gather with my management team in a café where employees can pitch innovative ideas. We provide promising proposals with funding and staff hours, have them return in a few weeks to show their progress and continue to support those with the most potential.

How have you adjusted your risk management strategy to align with the evolving technology landscape?
I speak regularly with other CIOs to gather their impressions and experiences with new technologies, sourcing partners and service models. A technology that’s new to us might already be used in another industry, so their experiences can help us better evaluate our own risk.

Read Romer's full profile.

Douglas P. Rousso

Douglas P. Rousso

Title
Senior vice president and CTO

Employer
CBS

Location
New York

New titles in your IT organization:
I created a department specifically for user experience, but not with the traditional user interface positions found on product management teams, but specifically focused on the entire end-to-end user experience from chair to screen. The function designs from the customer viewpoint and works across functional and technical teams to put the user experience at the front of the process.

Skills you’ll hire for:
Expanding training in information security and security engineering practices across the department. The CISO will largely be a policy-making function. Prevention and defense must be engineered into solutions from the start, therefore, I’m combining engineering and security architecture skills to enable our staff to design, build, deploy and manage securely.

How have you adjusted your risk management strategy to align with the evolving technology landscape?
I’ve become more risk averse and security conscious as a result of the pace and nature of hacking and exploits, the frequency of which exploits are exposed, and the dynamic nature of how my customers want to collaborate and share. We take more time in vendor and product analysis to ensure solid security foundations.

Theresa Rowe

Theresa Rowe

Title
CIO

Employer
Oakland University

Location
Rochester, Mich.

Career highlight:
Receiving the 2014 Community Leadership Award from Educause.

Coolest current project:
The portal and app built using the Apereo uPortal open-source framework. The project provides development opportunities for student employees, led by a strong professional staff member.

An innovative staff idea:
Changing our storage architecture. It may not sound glamorous, but as a university we store a lot of data.

How are you using reverse-mentoring?
We involve students in key projects on every IT team. They see things from a completely different perspective.

Biggest tech disappointment?
On-premises data analytics systems. Data analytics without extensive investment in analysts and without peer comparisons isn’t very useful.

Skills you’ll hire for:
Security, procurement and vendor relationship specialists.

What’s the most important task you’ve delegated this year?
Facility and network disaster recovery improvement projects, which I assigned to the director of network communications.

How have you created work/life balance?
I try to keep regular hours and encourage staffers to do the same. I insist that vacation time get used.

Sanjay Saraf

Sanjay Saraf

Title
Senior vice president and CTO, Western Union Digital

Employer
Western Union

Location
Englewood, Colo.

What emerging tech has captured your interest? 
Machine learning and adaptive “intelligent” systems are already making huge impacts in our daily lives and in next few years will change the way companies do business. We have already designed systems for predictive analysis, propensity modelling, fraud prevention and advanced personalization leveraging big data and linked analysis with cluster mapping. All of that is intended to drive a great experience with the least friction, resulting in more lifetime value and loyalty.

Coolest current project:
We focused on improving the customer experience by putting our customers in the center. As we embraced this philosophy, we immediately came to the conclusion that we needed an omni-channel strategy to deliver a truly memorable experience. We initiated a digital technology transformation program and invested in next-generation technologies. This tech transformation has enabled us to rapidly expand our digital touchpoints and provide a truly connected experience for customers. Our customers for the first time can engage in one channel and fulfill on another.

How are you using reverse-mentoring:
Every year, we hire interns from top universities, such as Berkeley and Cornell, and engage them in innovative projects. Toward the end of the internships, the students present their work. It helps us in understanding their perspective and tailor our products for the newer generation. Several promising former interns are now our employees engaged in critical projects or implementing ideas that they proposed while interns.

Robin Sarkar

Robin Sarkar

Title
CIO

Employer
Lakeland Health

Location
St. Joseph, Mich.

Coolest current project:
We are working on a device integration project (combining medical devices, networking, IT and analytics capability) in our main hospital that we expect will significantly impact patient safety and save lives.

How has your vendor management strategy changed in the past few years?
We have moved from a transactional vendor approach to a strategic partnership with our technology suppliers. We collaborate with our partners to understand their road maps and the new products they plan to bring to market and to outline our health system strategy and the enabling technologies.

Fast ROI project:
A radiology IT system for ultrasound integration and billing, developed in collaboration with one of our emergency room physicians. The project paid for itself within a few months.

How have you created work/life balance?
We try to keep an informal work atmosphere in our IT facility — flexible work hours, casual dress, telecommuting options, a reboot room with a pool table and monthly game competitions. That all helps to relieve the stress of supporting clinical teams 24/7.

Sorabh Saxena

Sorabh Saxena

Title
CIO, Network and Shared Services

Employer
AT&T

Location
Dallas

An innovative staff idea:
A staff member developed and applied machine-learning technology to detect root causes of defects, thus saving precious delivery cycle time. He applied the ensemble method, letting multiple algorithms compete, and naive Bayes was selected because its “root mean square error” was lower. The model has improved from 10% success rate automatically to 27% over five months.

How are you using reverse-mentoring?
I purposefully have recent college hires on my direct support staff and am an executive sponsor for our new hire program. Engaging daily with them gives me an opportunity to continually adapt work preferences and learn new technologies and, more importantly, to get insights into their expectations of technology and their leaders.

Skills you’ll hire for:
As is the case in much of the industry, all software skills — especially combined with networking, extreme automation and machine learning — will be critical. AT&T has invested heavily in retooling its workforce for the past few years. Not only have there been internal programs created, but we also collaborate with universities such as Georgia Tech, the University of Oklahoma and Notre Dame in advanced technical degrees, one of which is in machine learning.

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