Bob Stark is a CIO in transition. For the past four years, Stark oversaw the integration of Rogers’ cable and wireless operations, replacing all of the media company’s call centre technology infrastructure and standardizing operations across Rogers’ wireless, cable and Internet business lines.
began his career in the ’70s as a programmer at Imperial Oil, and over the years, he has assumed a number of management positions at companies such as Manulife Financial and ScotiaBank, where he ran the Canadian systems function for the bank.
“”I struggled with all of the technology issues around legacy versus replacement systems, integrated solutions versus best of breed applications, high availability versus costs,”” Stark says.
Since leaving Rogers in September, Stark has been surveying his options, figuring out what to do next with his mountain of skills. He says having senior-level experience on both the business and IT sides makes him a prime candidate for a CIO role in the eyes of many corporations.
“”Companies that are more forward thinking will engage the CIO’s skill set in helping them move their business forward,”” he says.
A recent study by Burson-Marsteller shows that five per cent of Fortune Global 500 companies have board members with IT skills. These companies’ stocks have outperformed the industry index by 6.4 per cent per year since the CIO-skilled member was elected.
Despite the growing recognition of the CIO as a partner in the business, not all of them want to remain in that role. Research suggests more than half of all CIOs are looking for opportunities to spread their wings outside the traditional IT borders.
Straddling the IT and business worlds
This is where Susan Dineen found herself four years ago. In 2000, Dineen was the CIO of Sony Music Canada where she was responsible for technology, new media and strategic marketing for the music giant, working on a number of projects that were international in scope.
During her four years at Sony, Dineen says she was able to straddle both the IT and business worlds, and was respected as an equal partner on the management team.
“”All the execs had an equal voice,”” she says. “”With the emphasis on tech we had, I felt I always had the ear of the president, and he supported us on all initiatives where we could put together a good business case.””
Then Dineen was offered an opportunity to do something entirely different. The then president of Sony Music Canada, Richard Camilleri, was breaking away from Sony to launch a new venture called Arius 3D, a 3-D imaging company that produces digital renderings of real-life objects for museums, universities and other clients around the world. Camilleri convinced Dineen to come along to Arius 3D as vice-president of sales and marketing.
“”Arius was a startup company, a blank sheet of paper,”” Dineen says.
Her jump from an IT role to one as VP of sales and marketing might seem like a stretch unless one considers Dineen’s breadth of experience. It began in the ’80s when she worked at a company called Bowes, which was part of the Weston group of companies in Toronto.
“”I was on the business side,”” Dineen says. “”And I was always volunteering to take on projects no one else wanted.””
That can-do attitude landed her at the head of an IT project: Overseeing the development of order entry billing system for five of the Weston companies.
“”I worked with all the companies to develop a system that was acceptable to everyone. It went in, was highly successful and I felt it was time to make a change,”” she says.
After working on the IT project, Dineen joined Ault Foods as manager of systems support and development, where she was responsible for a staff of 35 and an additional 20 consultants.
Dineen says it was precisely through her management and IT experience that she was able to excel in her role as CIO.
“”CIOs don’t work in a silo,”” she says. “”Their No. 1 strength is an ability to work across all levels of an organization — marketing, finance, sales. They have to be able to talk the language of these people.
“”If CIOs falter, it’s because they get too much into the technical stuff,”” she adds. “”The bits and bytes are of no interest whatsoever to executives.””
And perhaps it is this keen understanding that has enabled Dineen to negotiate the transition from business to technology and back again.