Image Gallery: 2010 Global CIOs

Jun 25, 2010 (08:06 PM EDT)

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When BlackRock's acquisition of Barclays Global Investors was completed in December, the fun was just beginning for BlackRock CIO Tom Fortin. The combination brings the company's assets under management to about $2.7 trillion, easily the world's largest asset manager.

Fortin began integrating BlackRock and BGI at the tail end of the U.S. credit crisis, which BlackRock navigated thanks in part to risk management systems that could accurately value collateralized debt obligations. In fact, BlackRock's risk analytics are so good that at the height of the financial crisis, Treasury Department officials called in the firm and its investment advisers to help unwind the complex holdings of AIG, Bear Stearns, and Citi.

Fortin's orders, direct from BlackRock founder and CEO Larry Fink, are to combine BGI's technology onto one platform that supports a single, global operating model. "This allows everyone in BlackRock to see the same information and to speak the same language," Fortin says. "It is a very simple concept to understand and an extremely hard concept to execute."

Fink's end goal of a single platform is one that many financial companies aim for and few ever hit. Financial firms are famous for running separate systems from acquisitions for years and sometimes decades after a deal closes. Often, the technologies cannot integrate easily, and it would require significant investment to build a new single platform. Rarely does management have the appetite for such an investment.

That one platform for BlackRock is Aladdin, an enterprise investment system that combines risk analytics with portfolio management, trading, and operations tools to support a consistent investment process. Fortin says Aladdin already is handling $2.2 trillion of the asset manager's $2.7 trillion in assets.

"Aladdin is not a closed platform," Fortin says. "We have worked with the development teams at legacy BGI so they can almost 'graft' their applications onto Aladdin. Aladdin provides 85% of what you really need. So our development teams only have to build the 15% that is necessary for their needs. Aladdin is a highly resilient and scalable platform that they can plug into."

In addition to integrating BGI's operations, BlackRock is building its own CRM platform that will be part of Aladdin. Fortin says that platform will be better and cheaper than integrating an off-the-shelf CRM system and maintaining its separate database. "When you look at managing a client account, or a relationship, with the scope of our company, we have many relationships with each client," Fortin says. "We receive tremendous benefit by having everything on Aladdin." -Greg MacSweeney, Wall Street & Technology

In April 2007, Haier announced a "1,000-day business process reengineering" project as the home appliance giant worked to establish itself as one of China's great global brands.

"We've transformed our organization model from triangle to an inverted triangle," says CIO Xie Haiqin, who also leads Haier's department for process system innovation. Instead of managers at the top directing staff at the bottom, Haier's culture now pushes managers to support employees on the front lines, Xie says, to let the company respond more quickly to changing customer needs.

That took major changes in IT systems. "To make the re-engineering possible, the whole business process and information system had to go through major reconstruction and adjustments," Xie says. "The good news is we got it done in last year." For example, every employee now has some pay tied to personal and business unit performance. And every employee has an account where they can track the factors that go into performance pay, which they can check by PC or a mobile device.

Except more such innovation, especially in support of global expansion. Haier opened a factory in South Carolina 10 years ago and sells to major U.S. retailers. The 1,000 days may be over, Xie says, but "we are still on the road." -Hu Yufang

Carrefour Brazil launched its e-commerce platform in March, one of the country's last major retailers to go online. Yet the French chain's goal is to be among Brazil's top five in online sales next year.

One reason for such optimism is Ney Santos, Carrefour Brazil's director of technology and processes and an e-commerce veteran. Santos worked for eight years as CIO at Grupo Pao de Acucar, including working on project, one of the first e-retail sites in Brazil, during the dot-com boom.

Carrefour's e-commerce platform, based on a service-oriented architecture, is built for integration with other systems to quickly add new services. The integration layer will support the launch of online and physical services-for example, buying a product online to be picked up and/or payment for in the physical store. And, as the global retailer's first online store in an emerging market, it's the model for other Latin American countries.

The e-commerce effort, however, is only one part of Ney's IT strategy for IT transformation. Over four years (from 2009 to 2012), Santos' IT team plans to modernize the company's IT systems, measuring results by increased productivity and lower costs. -Roberta Prescott, InformationWeek Brazil

Asian Paints, India's largest color and paint company and one of the world's top 10, is intent on moving into the top five, with a focus on emerging markets. To get there, it's building alliances, which hinge on a sophisticated value chain linking suppliers, partners, retailers, and consumers to the company. Manish Choksi combines two very big roles-CIO and chief of corporate strategy.

His broad goals include delivering technology solutions that adapt to demands of the business and turning innovation into profits, with specific targets such as achieving faster ROI on IT investments and reducing IT operating expense.

Under his aegis, the company successfully deployed ER and supply chain management systems. Now, Choksi and his team are looking to leverage those. For example, Asian Paints set up a central order processing service, which takes advantage of recent improvements in emerging market telephony services. With the order processing service, Choksi is getting more value out of the company's investment in SAP, including using its CRM for an order-taking and query-handling dashboard. The company also integrated its phone system with its SAP software for advanced call handling, voice response, and predictive outbound dialing.

Choksi, who joined Asian Paints in 1992, has held positions in sales, engineering, and marketing. He is a member of Asian Paints' management board. He also led forays into new services for painting and other home improvements, and he's expected to lead more such growth opportunities in his current dual role. -InformationWeek India

This coming December, a Ford Focus will roll off an assembly line in Germany and an identical one in the U.S.. It'll be Ford's first truly global vehicle-designed by teams around the world, the same car, using the same factory design, coming out simultaneously in multiple regions. That wouldn't be possible without the collaboration and data sharing platforms the IT teams led by CIO Nick Smither have implemented.

Ford's doing better than most in the hard-hit auto market. Though May sales were down 14% from a year ago in a slow European market, they were up 23% in the U.S. Ford got through the recession without a massive government bailout, and it has a fresh product lineup, from its Flex and Edge crossovers to new work vehicles such as Transit Connect.

The U.K.-born Smither joined Ford's European operations 30 years ago in product development, moved to the U.S. to integrate its South American operations, and became CIO in 2006.

IT works right alongside product development teams in advancing Ford's Microsoft-based Sync system, which links smartphones, music players, and a growing number of Internet services for safe use in the vehicle. It reflects Smither's strategy of keeping IT people close to business units. "We have people embedded in each of the skill teams, so we have IT people working with the development team around things like Sync, and the same is true across each of the other functions," he says.

A second major front for IT innovation is collaboration. For teams around the world to design vehicles and factories together requires one global IT infrastructure for data sharing, something Ford has built the last several years. For more informal collaboration, Ford relies heavily on videoconferencing, and increasingly on Microsoft SharePoint to let teams set up profiles and their own sites to work on projects. With a diverse employee base split across time zones and geographies, Smither says, "the whole social media is a huge opportunity." -Chris Murphy

After the 2008 financial meltdown, Sandeep Phanasgoankar, CTO for India's Reliance Capital, focused his team on IT productivity. He pushed system consolidation and increased virtualization. He renegotiated vendor contracts and cut spending on marginal IT projects. He put tighter controls on which projects got approved.

Productivity and efficiency are now a way of life in the financial services company, he says. His mantra is keeping a high degree of variability to IT spending, keeping in step with top-line revenue, and only pursuing new initiatives that deliver significant ROI, measured in increased sales or productivity.

Reliance Capital is part of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group and a fast growing financial services company in India. Its businesses include asset management and mutual funds, insurance, consumer and industrial finance, stock trading, and private equity. Reliance ADA Group is among the largest business groups in India with additional businesses in telecom, energy, infrastructure, and entertainment.

Now, Phanasgoankar's priorities for Reliance Capital IT include driving investments that create flexible processing and distribution, and wringing more synergies out of the many customer engagement systems the company's different lines of business have.

Phanasgoankar has over 25 years of experience in applying IT to finance, banking, business process outsourcing and IT-enabled services. He began his career with the State Bank of India and has worked with global firms including Tata Unisys, iFlex, Deutsche Bank, and Genpact, where he was the CIO responsible for global IT delivery. He led the critical IT Transition of Genpact from GE, before joining Reliance Capital.

He began his career in Reliance Cap by leading development of IT systems focused on moving into new business areas. And he created a shared services technology platform for the company that spanned HR, finance, and information security, including an effort to consolidate IT infrastructure and services. It's a great time to be a CTO in India, Phanasgoankar says, given the immense opportunities to prove your capability and succeed in a progressive, maturing, and rebounding economy, which he considers clearly on the upswing. -InformationWeek India

With the U.S. Army fighting two wars and supporting hundreds of thousands of soldiers around the world, it needs one of the world's largest and most complex IT organizations, with a $10 billion annual IT budget.

Directing this IT enterprise as CIO is Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, a West Point grad whose consolidation initiatives are helping the Army get a better grasp of a sprawling IT infrastructure and whose innovation mandates are bringing new perspectives to Army IT.

The Army's biggest IT project is the Global Network Enterprise Construct, aimed at giving soldiers a consistent IT environment as they move from base to battlefield, and giving Army IT more management control over its network.

For example, soldiers will get a single digital identity. Today, it can be one for their home base, another for a training site, and a third for the battlefield. Army IT, meanwhile, will re-architect its networks and data centers, including consolidating into regional computing centers.

Sorenson recently put a moratorium on server purchases, as the Army plans its IT consolidation and considers cloud computing. It's building a demo private cloud with IBM, and it's considering turning e-mail, app support software, and staff awards into shared cloud services.

Sorenson's team also recently ran Apps For The Army, offering cash prizes to soldiers and Army civilians who create applications that prove valuable. It sparked development of 53 apps in 75 days, many for mobile platforms, of which Sorenson also is a champion. -J. Nicholas Hoover

After nearly three decades of managing IT for financial services, with major stints at Bank of America, and more recently with HDFC Bank, where he was the third employee, CN Ram is trying something new. As CIO of Essar Group, he's leading IT for a conglomerate spanning steel, oil and gas, power, telecom, shipping, construction, and mining.

With operations in more than 20 countries across five continents, Essar Group employs 60,000 people, with annual revenue of $15 billion. As group president and CIO, Ram's primary responsibility is to mentor CIOs of each of the business units and supervise the activities of Essar IT Limited (EITL), a 700-person organization responsible for implementation, support and enhancement of software packages as also the company's infrastructure, telecommunications, security, and availability services.

Ram's mandate is to enhance use of IT in Essar to enable collaboration and faster decision-making, reduce cost using shared services, and establish IT governance and process excellence.

In addition to his Essar group role, Ram and five other executives have created a venture called Rural Shores Business Services, a company trying to set up business process outsourcing centers exclusively in Indian villages, looking to create employment opportunities for rural, educated youth. It's business pitch is to save Indian companies money, but it's driven by a social agenda of increasing economic opportunities in rural India so young people don't have to move to the cities to find work.

In the past Ram has been on the advisory boards of a number of technology companies, including Oracle, NCR, Sun, and Symantec, and Visa's Asia-Pacific tech advisory board. At Bank of America, Ram led the effort to set up the bank's Indian IT operations across its branches. -InformationWeek India

Thanks to a few blockbuster acquisitions and a global financial crisis, it hasn't exactly been the most smooth and peaceful three years of Liang Jianwen's life. For the CIO and senior VP of China Construction Bank (Asia), they've been the most tense, and intense, of his 30 year career. But the challenges have brought him and his IT team more opportunities.

In August 2006, China Construction Bank (CCB) acquired 100% of Bank of America (Asia), the Hong Kong based wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of. CCB (Asia) also has grown organically in Hong Kong and Macao, with its network growing three times since 2007.

In August 2009, CCB acquired AIG's subsidiary, AIG Finance (Hong Kong). M&A integration must be part of the playbook for any banking IT team, and Liang's deployed core business systems, enterprise databases, risk management tools, and database integration for AIG. More impressive: it did so in only six months.

In the crisis, Liang's role was not only to make sure IT supported the business, but also to demand measurable return on investment for each project, to make sure IT resources were allocated to the most important projects. In the past, requests to buy or build applications focused a lot on the reasons and importance for the app. Liang's philosophy now: applications must "speak by data"-how many more customers, how much cost reduction, how is the return measured? -Hu Yufang

Fabio Faria's IT organization has to think globally. Votorantin Industrial operates in 21 countries, in industries including cement, metal, paper, agribusiness, chemicals, and energy. Much of Faria's work over the past eight years with the conglomerate has been focused on governance and standardization. This year, though, a major part of the IT team's mission will be supporting growth, both organic and through acquisitions.

In 2010, Faria expects to continue spreading world-class operating and management practices across the group as part of the growth push. IT's charter is to improve efficiency and effectiveness of handling people, operations, risk, and information.

Faria's team laid the foundation for this in a 30 month, $53 million effort called the Integra Project. It resulted in the adoption of an integrated management system for the group's companies in Brazil and abroad, driving for alignment in processes and business information throughout the group and contributing to the consolidation of the corporate governance model.

That built off an SAP ERP implementation, concluded in early 2007, that is now tapped by around 10,000 users in 14 countries. The company also hyas created IT competency centers that provide services for the entire organization.

Faria's 32 years in IT, 22 of them in leadership roles, began in the former airline company VASP as mainframe operator. He worked for several large national and multinational companies in a number of IT roles. Faria has focused on IT strategic planning aligned to business strategy, development of IT policies, outsourcing contracts and enterprise solutions, and adoption of IT best practices, such as ITIL. -Roberta Prescott, InformationWeek Brazil