Michael T. Abbene, retired CIO, Arch Coal

For Michael T. Abbene, being named one of Computerworld's Premier 100 IT leaders came as a fitting endnote to a productive career. The 61-year-old retired as CIO at Arch Coal Inc. in August after four years in the top job and nearly four decades in IT.

And a challenging career it was. Abbene's two most recent projects for the St. Louis mining company were as different from each other as they could be.

The first involved the installation of data satellite dishes at Arch's many coal mines to back up its existing data networks, which were vulnerable to foul weather and human accidents.

"All you need is Bobby Backhoe working on a road to accidentally dig up your T1, and bang! There goes your data," Abbene says.

That backup satellite network, operated by AT&T Inc. and Spacenet Inc., enabled Arch Coal's other recent IT upgrade: a business intelligence project to help Arch better manage its inventory of spare parts.

For example, Arch used to keep a spare of a critical, $50,000 piece of coal-drilling equipment at each of its three Western mines. By analyzing parts data from those mines, Arch determined that it needed to keep just one of those pricey parts in a central location.

The business intelligence system is based on reporting and analytical software from Mincom Ltd. and Business Objects (now part of SAP AG) and databases from Oracle Corp.

It's the kind of ROI-driven project that Abbene built his reputation on. "As CIO, Michael encouraged the IS team to harness technologies to create greater efficiencies," says C. Henry Besten, Arch Coal's senior vice president of strategic development.

Abbene says he'll miss the mentoring and coaching aspect of being a CIO the most. But he already has plenty on his postretirement plate. A longtime amateur musician and singer, Abbene is working on a certificate in music theory in hopes of becoming a music coordinator at a local church.

He's also an amateur photographer who has traveled to all seven continents to pursue his passion. One of his photos, taken at the St. Louis Zoo, where he's a director and a docent, is one of the most popular at the Zoo's Web site.

Return to the full list of 2010 honorees

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