IT's top tier: Strong and steady leadership

These 100 IT visionaries are seizing this rare moment to produce measured growth, embark on innovative pilots and build loyalty in their most valued workers

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A Rare Opportunity

"Why waste a perfectly good economic crisis?" seems to be the motto of many of this year's Premier 100 IT Leaders.

"We're always working on efficiency and effectiveness and bringing new capabilities," says Avid Modjtabai, CIO at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co., which merged with Wachovia Corp. just 11 months ago. "The economic downturn made more of a compelling case to accelerate those initiatives."

Over the past year, Wells Fargo has increased power and capacity to its data centers while reducing usage and energy costs primarily through a huge server virtualization and tiered-storage initiative. Initially, Modjtabai says, IT faced some stiff resistance to the server standardization and virtualization plan from those who wanted a custom server configuration for every application. But her strategy prevailed, resulting in a 67% decrease in tiered storage costs and a server utilization rate of 65% -- significantly better than the industry average of 20% to 30%.

Another chunk of savings came from the implementation of an innovative "free-cooling" system in Wells Fargo's Minneapolis data center. The company is able to shut off cooling systems when outside air is chilly enough to be used to cool the data center. This strategy has yielded substantial savings by reducing energy costs, and it has eliminated 3,582 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, Modjtabai notes.

In a down economy, business balloons at the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. As far back as October 2008, the agency was seeing a huge spike in requests for help. So CIO Daniel Chan -- a former GE executive who hired on with the state in 2007 as a way to "give back" -- knew he would have to act fast to make services available to a broader audience through 2009. He also knew he would receive no additional resources. So Chan began conducting research and reaching out to fellow state CIOs, ultimately turning up an online application called Access Wisconsin.

"After several conference calls and demos, we thought we could use this as a building block," he explains. "The strategic decision was to make more services available online."

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