Julie F. Butcher: Master Organizer

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For Julie F. Butcher, vice president of IT at home builder MDC Holdings Inc. in Centennial, Colo., the day starts early and ends late, with few quiet moments in between. Here's an inside look at a day in the life of one of the country's top CIOs.

7 a.m.

A typical day starts with a stack of paperwork -- purchase requests, project documentation, expense reports and the like. And with an IT staff of 145 and 28 divisions across the country to support, there's plenty of it.

Today, however, the paperwork will have to wait. Butcher is informed that there's a virus outbreak to contend with. "The first thing we do is pull everyone together," she says. The IT staff goes over the damage and possible corrective measures. Generally, there's at least one fire to put out every week, Butcher notes.

9 a.m.

The rest of the morning is devoted to meetings. Butcher says that about 50% of the meetings she attends are related to day-to-day operations and project management issues. "Looking at the bigger picture is the hardest thing," she says.

Once a week, though, Butcher meets with company directors and uses a portion of that time to look further out. And usually once a month, the IT staff "buries itself in a room for a couple days" to discuss long-term strategic plans, she says. "We don't talk about the fire of the day."

Noon

Julie F. Butcher

Julie F. Butcher, vice president of IT, MDC Holdings Inc.

Photo Credit: Patricia Barry Levy

"At lunchtime, Butcher puts in an order at the nearby sandwich shop. She occasionally goes out for a working lunch with company directors, team members or vendors, but she says she likes to spend at least part of the afternoon in her office with the door open so "folks can drop by."

"It allows me to interact with my team," Butcher notes. The discussion may be around a new IT project or a new car someone just bought. "My favorite thing is when they come to me and say, 'I have this issue,' " Butcher says. "I like those brief opportunities to coach."

3 p.m.

Butcher spends the remainder of the afternoon in more meetings. Those may include contract negotiations, one-on-one discussions with direct reports, Sarbanes- Oxley reviews or budget planning sessions.

And, of course, there's e-mail to deal with, but that happens mostly after Butcher gets home and starts her "second shift."

Night Shift

I try to leave work early enough to spend time with my family," Butcher explains. After her children finish their homework, typically around 8 p.m., Butcher starts up her PC and tackles the 200-plus e-mails she receives every day -- a big chunk of them from vendors. "I stay in touch with vendors as much as I can, but that needs to be managed well," she says. "It can become overwhelming."

But the biggest everyday challenge, Butcher says, is keeping people focused on providing quality service and delivering what the business needs.

"On any given day, with 100-plus people, anyone could be down, tired, frustrated," she says. "I try to be consistent and keep an even temperament. If you leave blanks, people will fill them -- and not always with something positive."

Special Report

2006 Premier 100 IT Leaders

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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