Premier 100: Jumbo Projects, Big Risks

The bigger the project, the bigger the risk. These IT leaders kept up with multiple stakeholders and deadlines.

When it comes to leaders, no two are alike. But while there are distinct leadership styles, there are also common traits among those who influence.

An ability to listen well, create or capture a vision, and be creative and open-minded while staying on task are just a few. These three Premier 100 honorees oversaw long-term, multistage projects that put their core leadership qualities to the test.

Ian S. Patterson
CIO, Scottrade Inc., St. Louis

  • Project at a glance: The online investment company built a 34,000-square-foot data center to help support annual double-digit increases in daily trading volume along with an exponential increase in the amount of so-called market traffic that it receives from financial data providers such as Bloomberg LP and Reuters Group PLC.

  • Signature leadership move: Kept up team morale by regularly communicating his support and appreciation.

Before Scottrade broke ground on a $25 million data center last year, the company hired a project manager to oversee its biggest project ever and make sure all the deadlines were met.

With the necessary personnel in place, Patterson, 46, focused on other aspects of the project. For example, he made sure that vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. understood the business context of the company's escalating network capacity requirements before designing a new network infrastructure.

Premier 100 2007

Online brokerages such as Scottrade often handle 10% to 20% of their daily trading volume right after the opening bell. "When the market opens, we can just get slammed," says Patterson.

The pace of trading can remain frenetic throughout the course of a day when the market is experiencing the kinds of gyrations it has undergone recently. Scottrade has seen a 27% year-over-year increase in daily stock trades, from about 170,000 to 190,000 daily trades in 2006 to between 230,000 and 260,000 trades per day this year.

Meanwhile, market data provided by firms such as Bloomberg and Reuters has surged from a high of about 4,200 stock quotes per second on a typical day in the summer of 2006 to 31,000 quotes per second in July 2007, says Patterson.

"This was not just a data center move, but building the [IT] architecture for the growth we see in the future," he explains.

So three months before Scottrade began designing the data center, Patterson brought in a group of Cisco engineers and allowed them to dig into its existing network "to understand our peaks and valleys" of data traffic, he says.

Once the new network was built, Patterson brought in other firms to stress-test it for six weeks before lighting it up. "What we did was test, test and test," says Patterson.

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