CIOs band together to lift Michigan's fortunes

This savvy group of CIOs share ideas to boost their industry and promote tech innovation within their state. For members, expert advice is never more than a phone call away.

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Open for Ideas

Members say open-mindedness and adaptability are keys to gleaning the greatest benefits from their discussions.

Today's meeting is a prime example. Many of the CIOs seated around the large conference table can't implement a bonus program or take their teams to Las Vegas, but they have adapted some of Quicken Loans' practices to suit their own organizations.

Oakland County Deputy Executive and CIO Phil Bertolini, for example, has reworked project management schedules to include lots of creative time as a way to provide county IT employees with opportunities to innovate freely.

At BorgWarner, an automotive components supplier, CIO Jamal Farhat, another cabinet member, has instituted innovation awards for IT employees. Daniel Rainey, IT director and CIO for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, is revamping job titles and classifications within his organization so that they are more in line with IT positions in the private sector.

Subra Sripada, CIO at $2.3 billion Beaumont Health System, has instituted customized career maps for individual IT employees as a retention tool. That way, staffers can see future opportunities within the healthcare provider, he says.

"It's one thing to sit in your office and bury yourself in day-to-day work, but the real value and the wins come from reaching out to people across industries who are doing a like function and learn from them," says Bertolini.

That includes competitors. The key is sticking to noncompetitive issues that affect everyone, says member Steve Pickett, CIO at Penske, a $4 billion transportation company that competes with $6 billion Ryder System, whose vice president and CIO, Greg Knott, is also a member of the cabinet.

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Talent recruitment and retention is a perfect example, Pickett says. "The state of Michigan is doing a pretty good job of attracting technical talent with all of us working together to enhance that message," he says.

In fact, today's meeting of the Kitchen Cabinet is being held in a former General Motors facility now occupied by Hewlett-Packard, which not only bought and renovated the building, but also brought with it a large number of IT jobs when it moved its public-sector business to the Detroit area.

"With a common goal, the message from Quicken Loans, Penske, Ryder and Beaumont to attract talent is a similar-sounding message," Pickett notes. "The state of Michigan now has a big initiative to attract technical talent, and working together is what has caused the messaging to be consistent."

The guidance and information sharing also extend beyond the regular monthly meetings.

"The big value out of this are the personal relationships," says Rainey. "If you get into a bind professionally, you have a group of people you can reach out to, and a lot of them have experienced the same issues you have."

"You also get a broader perspective," he adds. "One of the risks of public-sector organizations is that they can get very insular. They tend to look at other organizations just like them. I belong to an organization for municipal CIOs, and it's a great organization, but we all have the same constraints and are in the same business. The Kitchen Cabinet puts me in an environment where the people are all different."

"Members are CIOs of the organizations that are the lifeblood of this region. To learn from them, work with them and build relationships with them is of immeasurable value," says cabinet founder Behen. "I can talk to any one of these well-known and well-regarded CIOs. It can be a personal or professional matter, and I know they'll pick up the phone."

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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