The Approaching Tsunami

Gail Holmberg, Board Member

Gail Holmberg,

Board Member

I have participated recently in a number of events centered on the topic of industry disruption.  I saw a virtual assistant handle level one customer assistance and improve her approach based on customer feedback.  I heard from a CIO who is about to test driverless vehicles for warehouse deliveries. A food company is looking at leveraging Blockchain to track product from the live animal at the farm to the package at the store.  And, Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, literally peppered us with examples as the luncheon speaker at the Evanta CIO Executive Summit.  These are not theoretical examples; they are current initiatives.  These innovations go far beyond the concept of "digital transformation".  We are clearly on the cusp of a wave (or more likely a tsunami) of unprecedented industry disruption.

This disruption cycle is changing the definition of the successful technology leader.  The new leader is expected to bring thought leadership to the executive team and the board regarding potential industry disruption and emerging opportunities. The leader will be expected to embed technology in business processes, services and products.  The "workforce" of the business and of the IT department will include virtual assistants and robots as well as humans, and the leader will be expected to manage their interactions.

Therefore, one of my New Year's resolutions is to take the time to more deeply reflect on the implications of this tsunami and its likely impacts on the industries I serve.  And I will be making time to have more sharing conversations with other technology leaders and vendors to gather additional insights.  I want to be prepared to be a leader who can help companies ride this wave.

As you make plans for the new year, don't forget to renew your SIM membership and save the date of January 11 for our SIM member winter social.  

Philanthropic Efforts

For many years, SIM has supported several philanthropic activities through monetary donations.   These monetary donations supported scholarship grants, the Illinois Arts & Business Council and i.c.Stars. Recently, SIM Chicago took a leap of faith in our members and coordinated an opportunity for members to volunteer for an activity with Feed My Starving Children.

We didn't know what the response from our members would be. Time is a precious commodity for all of us, and we are faced with making decisions around our time every day.  The question facing the SIM Chicago Philanthropy committee was... would our members be willing to take a few hours out of their busy schedule on a week day evening?  This volunteering time has opportunities to network, but it would be a different level of networking than what SIM members were accustomed to at other SIM Chicago events.  We were pleasantly surprised that 30 members and guests came out to support the event.  With the other volunteers on our hour and a half shift, we helped package 171 boxes containing 36,936 meals formulated for malnourished children. This is enough food to feed 101 kids for a year, which was headed for distribution in Cuba.


Looking forward, we will be adding one or maybe two "give back" events to the 2018-2019 program year.

This was a worthy cause for our members to support, but it should not end there.  The holiday season presents a time to be thankful for what we have and to give to those who may be less fortunate. We hope this is an enjoyable time for you, but that you pause to reflect on the blessings in your life, then do something positive for someone or for a cause that is dear to you. As a leader in your organization, we would challenge each one of you to consider taking the lead on such an effort within your organization. You may be surprised at what happens not only in the organization you support but also in your own organization.

Rich Whitney

SIM Chicago Philanthropy Committee

The Most Important Meetings in your Week

John Svelnis, Board Member

John Svelnis,

Board Member

In any given three-month span, your most critical meeting may very well be your quarterly board read-out, or perhaps a leadership offsite where you discuss the innovation IT is driving to increase market share.   I am here to tell you within each of those individual thirteen weeks, as an IT Leader, your 1x1s with your direct reports are your most important meetings.  While these meetings are critical regardless of level, I believe they grow in importance as you move up within the organization, as you transition from managing work to managing people to managing people managers.

Why are they your most important weekly meetings?  They help you build the relationships with your directs, and those improved relationships drive both the development of your team and the results for which both you and your team are accountable.   Rare is the conversation, let alone repeated conversations, that hits that daily double. 

The Internet is littered with white papers, articles, and podcasts on the structure and logistics of 1x1s.  My take is that what is critical for these conversations to be effective, is what these discussions do not become:  Specifically, that they become neither project readouts, nor venues to focus solely on topics you, as the manager, want to cover. As it relates to the former point, this is not to say key project updates should not be discussed at all, they absolutely should. The trick is ensuring that time is allocated for longer horizon topics, such as career development, to be covered.  As it relates to the latter point, as the boss, there will always be opportunities for you to solicit responses to the open questions you have - how long does it take for your directs to return a text, call, or email on a hot item?  Maybe the question that better drives this point home is how long does it take you to return a text, call, or email to your boss when she has a question on a hot item?   Not long, I suspect.  Your direct having an established outlet to comfortably raise points of discussion is what is important - strong professional relationships are not forged with one side living full time in response mode to the questions of the other.

If you are not holding 1x1s with your direct reports on regular and frequent basis (bi-weekly can be effective as well), you are missing an opportunity to maximize the value your team drives to the organization.   If your direct reports are not having similar conversations with their directs, a similar chance to improve exists.

Giving Thanks!

Rick Merrick,  Board Member

Rick Merrick

Board Member

Thanksgiving is next week. I am busy, like many of you, getting ready to spend much of next Thursday cooking, watching football, and spending time with my family. It's a special time of the year where we remember to give thanks for all that we have; that includes our family, friends, and the careers that we built. We also should not forget to be thankful for the many people we work with every day. Teams matter more than individuals. Remember that you did not get to this place in your career by yourself. You had a team and colleagues to support you, along with friends and family. Remember to give thanks to your team and recognize their contributions. 

As a CIO, I continually try to promote the successes of my team and make sure that they get all the credit for their accomplishments. People want to feel valued for their accomplishments: they want to be recognized. It can be as simple as sending a congratulatory email, taking a few minutes to talk about a common interest, or writing a card on their birthday. These small actions show that you value the team around you, not just the work they produce, but as individual people. 

As the IT leader, you have the opportunity to create an environment where a positive culture can emerge. That culture should be collaborative, where you succeed or fail as a team. Don't just give them the tools and resources to succeed, give them the environment. 

Enjoy the holiday season and remember to give thanks, not only at home but for the people at work too. Remember that when your team succeeds, you also succeed.

Three hiring mistakes and how to avoid them

Jane Prugh,  Board Member

Jane Prugh

Board Member

Have you ever hired the wrong person? If so, don't beat yourself up - you're in good company.  A recent survey reports that 75% of employers have hired the wrong person.*  We all know it is painful and costly to hire the wrong person. The average cost of a mis-hire can be six times base salary for a sales rep, 15 times base salary for a manager, and as much as 27 times base salary for an executive. Ouch!**

With more recruitment tools available today you'd think it would be easier, but people are as likely as ever to hire the wrong people. Here are three common mistakes I've seen how to avoid them.

Problem 1: Hiring people too much like yourself

Now, of course you want to hire people who are compatible with you and your organization, but it's not unusual to select people with whom they have too much in common. By nature, we connect with people like us and bond over shared backgrounds and personalities. In the workplace, this can lead to skill gaps and a lack of diversity. If you hire people who have the same experience and skill sets, you are limiting what your organization can achieve. Hiring a new person is a great opportunity to identify what's missing in your company or on your team so you can plug those gaps.

The solution:

Look at your own personal gaps and those of your organization. What are you missing? Which skill set(s) would add more value to your company? Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and seek out people who are different, who are strong where you are weak and vice versa.

Problem 2: Clearly defined role and responsibilities

When you need to hire someone quickly, it's tempting to reuse old job descriptions, or to quickly list the role and responsibilities without careful consideration. You know in your mind what the role is and who the right person is - you already have the vision of the person doing the job and fulfilling the responsibilities. But, you are busy so you quickly put together a "job description" that misses the key points of the real person you want to hire.

The solution:

It's ok to use an old job description or to jot down some quick points about the role as a starting point, but take the time to ensure it's right for YOUR job opening. Take a step back and ask yourself: Is this an accurate description of responsibilities? What is success?  How do you know a year from now when you are doing the performance review, you made the right hire, that it wasn't a mis-hire?

Problem 3: Lacking a clear hiring strategy

Some employers make the mistake of doing their recruitment in-house without external resources. It can be helpful to have an outside perspective. The other side of the coin is actually using too many outside resources. I see this a lot when companies engage multiple recruitment firms at the same time; you might think you'll get more candidates, but in reality, you'll get a lot of duplication and poorly matched candidates. Do you know why that is? Have you heard of cherry picking? If you don't have an exclusive partnership with a firm, one who dedicates themselves, or provides a commitment to your needs, then you will get resumes thrown at you that match keywords.  How about a culture fit, personality fit, integrity, job stability, career goals?    

The solution:

Be selective and strategic when planning your hiring approach. Choose one recruiting firm to facilitate the process and ensure you get the right person for the job. Seek out a company that will take the time to set a strategy (ask them what it is), visit the office(s), and conduct interviews with the team in advance.  This will go a long way in identifying the absolute best talent that will fit with YOUR culture.

Hiring can and should be exciting - it's a chance for you to revisit your organizational structure, fill gaps, and bring new energy and talent into your business. You can make better decisions and find the best people by being aware of these pitfalls and taking steps to avoid them.

*2016 Careerbuilder Survey

**Brad Smart, Topgrading

Balanced Attack Plan

Paul Corning,  Board Member

Paul Corning

Board Member

As head coach of your organization you get to set the game plan.  It is your job, your responsibility, to establish the strategy and tactics across your organization.   Championship teams can win with many different combinations, but rarely do they succeed without achieving a balance of offensive and defensive mindset.  You need to keep your IT team focused on both if you want to win as an organization. In your industry, in your company, with your team, how have you intentionally focused their collective mindset for the best possible outcome?

Example offensive and defensive positions:


Latest malware or security threat, taking action on audit issues

Broad strategy for access and security, CISO leadership, security awareness programs


Current projects, current portfolio, upgrades, break/fix work

Leading business innovation,  Technology strategy, Enterprise Architecture 

Operations & Support

Provisioning, data center management, call resolution

Cloud strategy, data center optimization, minimizing calls, DevOps


Reporting and descriptive analytics, data quality issues

Predictive analytics and machine learning, data governance


Lowest cost, up-time

Agility and scalability


Current players in best position, filling gaps, contracting

Career development, succession planning    

Business Process

Process Improvement, BPM

Digital Transformation

It would be easy to think that we should focus 90% of our mindshare on the current hot technology or solution (offense), but as you can attest the political reality of any IT organization forces a more typically defensive mindset.  Rare is the long-tenured CIO who does not balance innovation and growth with excellence in operations and keeping the systems up and lights on.

There are many moves that you can make that will help achieve the right balance in your team.  It is unlikely that you can focus only on offense, or defense, in any one area of your organization. Budget and staffing issues can make it difficult to carve out an offensive focus but it is a critical dependency for your team's success. For IT to win, you need a balanced game-plan across your organization that you and your leadership team must own.  

Please join us on Wednesday, November 8th for a  member give-back event at Feed My Starving Children in Schaumburg, where we will help out at a local food bank that serves our community.    

Technology Game of Thrones

Wayne Bulmahn,  Board Member

Wayne Bulmahn

Board Member

Like many of you, I try my best to pursue extracurricular readings focusing on innovation in a variety of industries and disciplines.  I hope to gain new insights into what differentiates the most successful organizations, particularly those who take calculated risks to disrupt their markets and leapfrog their competitors.  Many times, these disruptors are those organizations that find transformative ways to intimately enhance the lives of their customers. 

In an October 2nd Barron's article, the writer talked with Scott Galloway (Professor of Digital Marketing at NYU) about his recent book that addressed this very topic, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.  These organizations are wildly successful and universally acknowledged as the best at what they do, creating huge, unique markets by identifying new opportunities to transform the lives of their customers.

Each of these impressive companies continues to innovate, disrupt and expand following this formula.  But now each is so large that it is difficult to be the best at all they do, especially as the companies start to compete against each other.  The writer equated the situation to Game of Thrones and asked Galloway who would ascend to the Iron Throne.  Galloway felt the winner would be Amazon since they were a notch above the others in continually driving innovation and value for their customers.

The customer innovation lessons from these four companies are compelling. 

To understand how you can leverage this game changing focus for your organization, we invite you to join us for a breakfast discussion on December 7th with Glenn Schneider, Executive Vice President & CIO for Discover Financial Services. Glenn is the 2017 winner of the prestigious CIO of the Year Award from the Executive's Club of Chicago, SIM & AITP as well as a winner of the 2017 CIO 100 award and one of Computerworld's 2017 Premier 100 Technology Leaders.  He will add his insights on Digital Transformation with a Customer-Focused Culture

Specifically, Glenn will discuss how IT must create an ecosystem that continuously delivers an exceptional customer experience, incorporating the latest digital innovations and cognitive technologies.  He will highlight how IT leadership must mobilize the organization to embrace change and focus on the customer at the center.  While the journey is a challenge, it's necessary in order to create the most rewarding and successful customer relationships.

Please join us on December 7th for a great discussion, good food, and an excellent opportunity to network with your peers.  Click here to learn more and register. 

Decision Makers

Jerrold Martin, Board Member

Jerrold Martin,

Board Member

Leading decision makers are on a constant journey looking for opportunities to boost the agility of their organizations by driving innovation and transformation.  As the premier network of Senior IT Leaders, the Chicago Society of Information Management (SIM) invites you to join us at an exclusive invitation only event for CIOs to share their experiences with Artificial Intelligence, Applied/Machine Learning, IoT, 3D Printing and Robotics.   The implementation of these various tools are a way to cut costs and speed up business processes.

SIM Chicago offers a variety of programs for our members to address specific needs. CIOs must respond quickly to attend our invite only CIO breakfast. This exclusive invitation event is an opportunity for CIOs to share their journey from conception and design to implementation and impact at the enterprise level.

The event will be held on Friday October 20, 2017 at Chicago's first innovation center focused on physical product development and manufacturing that fosters connections between local manufacturers, university researchers, and Chicago's entrepreneurial community. The topics will be about the real advances that are being made in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Applied/Machine Learning, IoT, 3D Printing and Robotics. 

Come and explore this interesting innovation space in Chicago at this exclusive invitation only event for CIO's and join our discussion leaders: Jim MacLennan, SVP & CIO IDEX, Michael Kennaugh, VP & CIO - Reinhart Foodservice and Andrew Guzman,  Vice President & CTO for the Americas - HCL. Share and learn what Chicagoland's CIO's are doing in these spaces. We'll have a broad spectrum of perspectives that are shared along their journey. 


7:30am - 8:00am Networking and breakfast

8:00am - 8:10am Welcome and Introduction

8:10am - 8:30am - Opening remarks and topics review

8:30am - 9:45am - CIO Roundtable discussion

10:00am - Adjourn

A Tour of mHub will be available immediately after the event.

Note: This is an exclusive event for CIOs. Space will be limited and reserved for those directly invited, i.e. non-transferable.

Human Helping Human

Don Schmidt, Board Member

Don Schmidt,

Board Member

I was awakened the other morning with the news about a gunman taking horrific liberties on unsuspecting concert goers in Las Vegas; 58 unsuspecting people died and many more were wounded. Just last month hurricanes wreaked havoc on Houston and Puerto Rico. It seems devastation is all around us whether man made or natural. From various news medium one thing that was clear to me for these events is as humans we help other humans in time of need. Whether through natural disaster or an inhumane act of one human to another human, it is important that while we are walking, talking and breathing, we need to be the best person we can be to one another.

One of the many reasons I volunteer time to SIM Chicago is because of our commitment to give back to our community. Recently SIM Chicago hosted a golf tournament helping i.c.stars|*. At the recent SIM Fall Gala, SIM Chicago presented i.c.starsI* with a $40K check to support their mission. SIM Chicago also underwrites a scholarship program that grants a scholarship to a candidate committed to improving the IT community. SIM Chicago also hosts many events that bring the community together for much-needed human interaction.

SIM Chicago is proud to be able to contribute to the human aspect of why we belong to SIM Chicago. SIM Chicago is one of the largest SIM chapters for many reasons. While some may think it is about the technology; it is human helping human. It is how we humans are wired. Free of technology.

On behalf of the entire SIM Chicago Board of Directors, we are thankful to our members and the value you bring to the organization. We are humans helping humans. Let's stay in touch and plan to attend one of our upcoming events.  Our next event is an exclusive CIO invitation-only event on Friday October 20, 2017 at mHub - Chicago's first innovation center focused on physical product development and manufacturing that fosters connections between local manufacturers, university researchers, and Chicago's entrepreneurial community. To find out more about this event, please visit the event page here.

Game Day

Alwin Brunner, Board Member

Alwin Brunner, Board Member

Dear SIM member:

Hopefully you had the opportunity to enjoy the summer, I know I did. At home, we now are back in the school-routine but we look back at a summer with time to enjoy family and friends.

The SIM Chicago program year has also restarted - Thursday's event on innovation hosted at the Bosch Connectory was a great event with lively discussion and mind-share as well as a great way to re-connect with many friends and peers.

The next big SIM opportunity to connect is our Fall Gala, September 21st, where we have planned for a phenomenal evening. The title of the keynote is 'Think like a Champion'. Now, our SIM Chicago 2017/2018 theme is 'Change the game'. Coincidence you may think - not really. Most ideas stem from looking at current business differently, listening to and learning from others and translating your thoughts into actions. If you, like me, are looking at opportunities to help your organizations to change the game, you probably have already learned that that requires you to up your own game as well.

I look forward to learning from coach Jim Fannin about how to 'up my game' and learning from you about what you are doing to 'change the game' for your organizations and yourself.

Having mind-share and dialog suggest that we need to communicate and stay connected. This coincides nicely with our chapter's programs agenda but I thought that I would share some practical tips. Please consider the following practical things to get the most of your SIM membership:

  1. Today, plan the SIM Chicago events in your calendar
  2. Attend our Gala - a very effective and efficient way to connect with peers
  3. Use the networking opportunity before dinner to get acquainted with at least 3 new people
  4. At the gala, get to know the people at your table
  5. After the gala, setup time to re-connect with some of the people you got to know at the gala

This may come across as trivial and you probably feel you were going to do this no matter what. The real message obviously is that our IT Leadership community is strong and continues to be strong due to us all staying connected, sharing thoughts, learning from each other and giving back to the Chicago-land IT community.

I look forward to seeing you at the SIM Chicago Fall Gala, September 21st. Registration is open and can be done by clicking

If you have any questions about the gala, please don't hesitate to contact me or anyone else of our SIM Chicago board: