The CIO: More Than a Network Steward

6 questions for Xerox chief information officer Steve Little shows that IT organizations are more than help desks: They help organizations succeed.

Curated by Gregory Pings, manager, content marketing for Xerox.

Chief information officers and their information technology organizations are responsible for much more than networks of hardware and help desks. They are essential partners with the organizations that employ them. As Steve Little’s answers to the following six questions show, a well-run IT organization is essential to your processes, and to any prospect of growth.

“There is a place for [the cloud and mobile devices], but not everyone understands the risks.” – Steve Little, CIO, Xerox
“There is a place for [the cloud and mobile devices], but not everyone understands the risks.” – Steve Little, CIO, Xerox
Steve is Xerox’s chief information officer. He joined our company  in 2013, and his career spans 35 years. His previous positions include: CIO at Schneider Electric in Paris, and director of Infrastructure Services at ITT Corporation in White Plains, N.Y. Steve holds an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

What one aspect of your role has changed the most over the past couple of years?

I’ve been a CIO for 20 years, and in the last few years, the CIO has emerged as more than just a steward of technology. This change was summed up for me by a conversation I had a few years ago with a senior business leader. We were discussing an Enterprise Resource Planning rollout when he paused and said, “Now I get it. This isn’t about IT; it’s a business transformation project.” Business leaders now understand the strategic impact of technology and appreciate the value of the CIO’s enterprise-wide vantage point.

What is unique about your IT organization?

We rely heavily on outsourcing and we are good at it. Some outsourcing relationships are like two gladiators at the Colosseum, but we recognize that you don’t achieve anything by being adversarial. We work closely with our external partners and listen to their feedback. We also have good process discipline and we work well with Xerox’s procurement team, which always helps.

What do you think is the biggest risk IT organizations face today?

The cloud and mobility allow business leaders and employees to do more with technology by themselves. There is a place for this, but not everyone understands the risks.

What development tactic has had the single greatest impact on your staff?

I have created a program to improve our ability to execute. This requires behavioral change, as well as stronger processes. We need to get better at keeping commitments, and sometimes this means being comfortable pushing back on requests that we can’t meet.

What new skills are you looking to source— through hiring, training, contracting, or outsourcing—across your IT organization in the next several years?

We need people to be more entrepreneurial to be able to identify the opportunities that matter most through effective negotiation and an appreciation of business challenges. Being entrepreneurial also means being flexible, for example, by managing a project based on the desired business outcome, rather than just following a checklist.

What do you consider essential reading (or listening or watching)?

I get a lot of value from networking with other CIOs and from giving Xerox’s technology partners an opportunity to show me how to do things more effectively.

(This article was published in ITQ, a quarterly journal for CIOs and their leadership teams. ITQ is published by the CEB, and is excerpted on this blog with their permission.)

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