Calculated Risk-Takers

The annual Premier 100 IT Leaders Conference and the accompanying special issue of Computerworld are among this magazine's proudest achievements. This is the Premier 100 program's 13th consecutive year, and with the addition of 2012's class of honorees, the list of Premier 100 alumni now includes 1,300 of the sharpest, most successful senior leaders in IT.

Attending the Premier 100 event is always a thrill. It's a warm, friendly atmosphere, and innovative ideas flow all around you. That's because CIOs and other senior IT executives are incredibly talented individuals who, in this day and age, need to speak at least three languages: driving business advantage, management excellence and knowing the best ways to harness technology.

This year's honorees are responsible for an average of 709 IT staffers, and their companies employ a total of 1,449 IT professionals on average. Half of the honorees said their IT budgets had increased in the previous 12 months, and 44% said their IT staffs had expanded during that time. Premier 100 IT leaders manage sizable IT investments, most of which exceed $50 million.

What are they working on? Their top priorities for 2012 are application development, data management/business analytics, security, cloud computing and virtualization.

If you've read Julia King's cover story, "The Rewards of Risk-Taking," you know that the overarching theme of this year's Premier 100 is smart IT leaders knowing what needs to be done and taking risks to put their companies ahead. What's more, they made those bold moves in 2011, when the U.S.'s emergence from the recession was anything but assured. And yet, they succeeded.

One Premier 100 honoree who took a risk was Waste Management CIO Puneet Bhasin. He proposed installing ruggedized tablet computers on every truck in the company's fleet to capture real-time data. The goal was to improve operational efficiency and customer service. But the investment was steep -- hundreds of millions of dollars. He also had to convince his CEO and the executive board that the investment would yield a return.

There's strong continuity between last year's P100 honorees and this year's. A year ago, I wrote: "The personality of 2011's Premier 100 is beginning to emerge. You might sum it up as 'Full speed ahead!' Coming out of the recession, smart IT shops are positioning themselves to help their companies grow." The 2011 honorees were initiating new projects. Much like this year, some 51% of last year's class won budget increases. So the risk-taking probably began in 2010 -- proof that IT's best and brightest were acting on their convictions well before the all-clear had sounded on the recession.

I've written about "The New IT" before. It's born out of the combination of the deep recession, the rise of cloud computing and the new imperative for IT organizations to understand their companies' business needs and add value. I'm seeing that approach at work among our 2011 and 2012 Premier 100 honorees. The bar has been raised, and these IT leaders are meeting new challenges. They're taking risks, yes, but calculated risks. Mostly they're grabbing the opportunity to invest in projects that will pay off for their companies.

Scot Finnie is Computerworld's editor in chief. You can contact him at and follow him on Twitter (@ScotFinnie).

Next: Return to the full list of 2012 honorees

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon