Failure is an Option!

Dan Vonder Heide,   Board Member

Dan Vonder Heide,

Board Member

We've all heard the Post-It note story and how such a successful product was the result of a less than successful experiment. Innovation is often the result of such initial failure, though failure in itself doesn't lead to innovation. Rather it's how we deal with that failure - recognizing the potential. Best practices to promote creativity, iterative and innovative progress tell us that it's when we're able to embrace our mishaps, learn from them, and build upon them that real innovation emerges.

Embracing failure is not always easy. The pressure to succeed and never fail is entrenched in each of us throughout our lives. We just have to think back to our school days and remember the effects that the pressure of failing a class had on all of us (at least most of us). Failing in academia or in the workplace has never been embraced as an accepted outcome.

Still, organizations often say they have a willingness for trial and error and that failure is accepted. For this type of culture to be a reality, the organization must have leaders who are willing to champion new ideas and initiatives that may lead to innovative results. We have to ask ourselves if we're that type of leader. How do we create an environment that motivates, inspires and fosters our teams to experiment and possibly lead to the next innovative idea? 

Where can we learn from others and foster a culture of innovation in our organizations? You  won't want to miss our next SIM event, Winning vs 'Failing' in Innovation Design, on Tuesday, February 19th at Maggiano's in Skokie where you'll hear how several Chicago Innovation Award winners navigated their journey to a winning result. Visit  for a list of speakers and event details.

Blockchain- Coming Soon To Your Industry

Tim Waterloo,   Board Member

Tim Waterloo,

Board Member

After attending many Chicago blockchain community meetups and participating in the Fintank Blockchain Global Summit, I'd like to share what I've learned with our SIM Chicago network.

Blockchain is a distributed, common record of transactions, maintained by a network of computers on the internet without the need for approval from a central authority.  The blockchain creates a shared record of data which is virtually tamper-proof. 

Blockchain is the technical platform for bitcoin.  The blockchain architecture also holds great promise for other applications.  The latter has been my area of study.

Blockchain could revolutionize the back office operations of organizations.  Currently the absence of a common record is a costly problem resulting in the need for back office teams to perform extensive reconciliation.  Blockchain's distributed ledger is a common record which virtually eliminates the need for reconciliation providing cost savings.

The following are a few examples of blockchain opportunities that could reduce cost and complexity: property title ownership transfer, the transfer of ownership of goods through a supply chain (i.e., traceability), post-trade clearing and settlement, digital media rights management, digital identity (passports, health records, citizenship, etc.).

Walmart is requiring its California produce suppliers to join their blockchain-based supply chain by January 2020 in order to reduce produce recalls. Learn more about the problem, solution and benefits here

Why use blockchain rather than a database solution? Four reasons you might use blockchain-

  1. Do multiple parties share data?

  2. Do multiple parties update data?

  3. Is there a requirement for verification?

  4. Can intermediaries be removed?

Here are a few observations from my 2018 study of blockchain:

  • We are in the early stages of blockchain; it is advancing rapidly; and common standards must occur before we reach feasibility at scale.

  • The majority of work to date is on private blockchains with a small number of partners rather than on public blockchains (e.g. crypto currencies).

  • Large companies are experimenting with blockchain. Their suppliers/partners will need to join the blockchain to retain their client's business.

Blockchain provides a great opportunity for IT leaders to make a big impact at their organizations. Perhaps blockchain could bring major cost savings to your business processes. Engage with your business leaders to show them how.

To get started, use this approach.  Have a team member research blockchain, experiment with a small internal project, learn lessons and apply them for the next iteration.  Your team will be in a stronger position when your large customer insists you join their blockchain or you choose to disrupt your industry!

Bonus: here is a simple blockchain visual demo for those who are curious to see how blockchain works

I look forward to hearing about your 2018 learnings at one of the upcoming SIM events shown below.

2019 Is Off To An Exciting Start!

Mark McGee,   Board Member

Mark McGee,

Board Member

2019 is off to an exciting start, never a dull moment. The US economic growth is expected to slow from 2.9% to 2.5% in 2019 due to tighter financial conditions and a fading fiscal stimulus, according to Goldman Sachs Research. The forecast also calls for multiple rate hikes as the Fed looks to keep the economy from overheating amid rising inflation and unemployment on a downward trajectory towards 3% by early 2020. The global economic outlook is shifting, which could lead to new turbulence in markets and the government in 2019. Corporations will have to look more deeply into their financials and operations to analyze how they can become more efficient, save more money, and improve revenue and profitability. It will be a year of less growth and more uncertainty. IT will play a large role in how well corporations execute this year and we have multiple challenges as always. The big one is resources, considering we have another wave of retiring baby boomers, less IT Resources, and increasing demand for IT talent.

Corporations will have many important decisions over the next year, like whether to outsource their teams, migrating to the cloud to reduce costs, and where to simplify their IT operations. They must make these tough decisions all while delivering better, faster, and cheaper innovative solutions.

As a SIM member and also part of your company's leadership team, you are well positioned to make a big difference in in 2019. With life's frantic pace and limited time, it's important to also prioritize your investment in YOU. This year, schedule yourself to get more involved in SIM and attend as many of the events as you can. Learn directly from your peers about how they are handling similar challenges that you're experiencing, meet new people and build your network. The Chicago SIM Chapter is one of the largest in the U.S. and nationally SIM has over 5,000 members across the country. Each year we have continued to grow the chapter and take events to the next level. Our programs schedule for 2019 is fantastic so please don't miss out! Last week we kickstarted the year with an incredible and well attended event at the Mars Gallery for the annual Winter Social, where we donated $5,000 to the Chicago Arts & Business Council.  Please register for the upcoming SIM Innovation Discussion on February 19th and the CIO Roundtable which is taking place on March 5th.

New SIM Chicago CIO Welcome Program

Gail Holmberg,   Board Member

Gail Holmberg,

Board Member

Chicago has a vibrant technology scene but getting connected as a "new to Chicago" CIO can be a bit daunting. SIM-Chicago has established a new CIO Welcome Program to welcome CIOs new to the Chicago area and help them get connected locally. We are looking for SIM CIO members to serve as a SIM-Chicago Ambassador and welcome a new CIO to our great area. We will do our best to match based on location. Your commitment is to meet with them one-on-one at least twice during the upcoming year and bring them to a SIM-Chicago event as our guest. In between you can share networking opportunities and be available to answer any local questions. The idea is to be a trusted resource to connect Chicagoland CIO colleagues to business technology leadership events and venues, local vendors, etc. Feel free to branch out with recommendations on great restaurants, sporting and arts events, summer festivals, etc. We are also asking all SIM members to let us know if they are aware of CIOs moving to the area. I am coordinating the subcommittee for this program and my fellow sub-committee members are Simona Rollinson CIO at Clayco and Laszlo Gonc, Managing Partner, Next Era Transformation Group. Feel free to contact me at

And while I have your attention, renew your SIM membership here before the end of the year and use the promo code EB19 for a 10% early renewal discount (good through 12/31/18). And join us at our breakfast event in Oak Brook on December 13, Cloud and Cancer - A Tale of Two Transformations with John Phillips, EVP and CIO of Briggs Healthcare, by registering here.

How are you evaluating 2018 and planning 2019?

Tom Behnke,   Board Member

Tom Behnke,

Board Member

For many of us this is the season where we are finalizing our 2018 outcomes and starting to plan our 2019 outcomes. During the Evanta CIO Executive Summit this week, we heard a number of themes that should be influencing how we approach these activities.

These themes started during the opening keynote by Andrew Razeghi. He talked about how creativity is the number one leadership skill. Would you consider this the number one skill for you and your organization? Should it be? But what does creativity mean? For me, it can mean different things in different business situations, but the message was clear around needing to continue to learn and then determining how to apply this knowledge in novel ways. This links to other messages around how we must continue to transform ourselves from "IT leaders" to "business leaders who understand technology." Is it not how we help transform the business with the help of technology that sets us apart as leaders? Seems like creativity to me.

Another challenge comes to mind as we start to wrap up 2018, are we looking through the right lens to judge how the year is going to wrap up and what we are planning on accomplishing in 2019? For me one of those lenses is how are my work experiences, experiences through my network and formal education programs pushing me to learn and apply these learnings in ways that create higher value solutions. It is through organizations such as SIM Chicago and events such as the Evanta CIO Executive Summit that help me achieve this goal. While I used an example from the keynote, I always leave these events with a couple of nuggets that I hope to apply to the problems I am facing. It is through our network, events we attend and the drive to continue to learn that helps continue to transform us from "IT people" to "business leaders who understand technology" as the CEO of ServiceNow shared with us. What nuggets did you take from the last event you attended? Are you able to successfully apply any of those nuggets in ways that created higher value than you would have accomplished otherwise?

For me, success is not only ensuring the business outcomes were delivered but that I accelerated how I personally grew through a desire to keep learning so that I continue to improve and create higher value.   We still have another SIM Chicago breakfast event approaching on Dec 13th at the Clubhouse Oakbrook featuring John Phillips, Sr VP CIO Briggs Healthcare & COO Briggs Homecare talking about Cloud & Cancer - A Tale of Two Transformations. Is there a couple of nuggets that you could take away from spending a few hours over breakfast with your fellow SIM members? I expect to and will be there to continue my journey on how I continue to learn and strive to create higher value. I hope to see you there also and I would challenge you to consider looking at how your personal growth is a key component of your outcomes in 2019.

Thankful for SIM Chicago

John Svelnis,   Board Member

John Svelnis,

Board Member

Now is the time of year when we take a short break from our busy lives to spend time with family and friends and reflect on what we have to be thankful for, both personally and professionally, before one last end-of-year push. 

I know I am blessed, as I would expect many of you are, with a wonderful group of family and friends, a group I look forward to spending time with over this long weekend. Another thing we have in common to be thankful for, by virtue of the fact you are reading this letter, is SIM Chicago. I have been a SIM member for almost a decade, and board member for three years. I count my participation in SIM Chicago the many things I am thankful for.

  • I am thankful for the chance to see world class speakers such as Retired Admiral, U.S. Navy and former head of NSA, Mike Rogers, speak at our bi-annual Gala events.

  • I am thankful for the opportunity through our SIM Breakfast series to listen to peers openly discuss new ideas or their experience facing the same challenges I face today, what they learned, and how they ultimately found success.

  • I am thankful these breakfasts are held in both the suburbs and downtown so I can attend regardless of where my work finds me in within the metropolitan area.

  • I am thankful for the chance to connect socially with this wonderful network, whether it be at our annual golf event, or the Winter Social and Member Appreciation event coming up in January 2019.

  • I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in efforts that philanthropically support our community and beyond, such as the Feed My Starving Children event earlier this month, where 40+ of our members helped pack enough meals to feed over 100 children for an entire year.

  • I am thankful for the access to the wonderful technology leadership network that form this organization.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and look forward to seeing you at a SIM event soon.


It's Hard to Predict Things, Especially the Future

John Fisher,   Board Member

John Fisher,

Board Member

Many of you may recognize the quote from Yogi Berra. Many of his famous quotes are malapropisms, but this one is very insightful. Many people try to predict the future, and many people find it's harder than they think. 

I recently heard an episode of "The Leadership Podcast" (Thanks Jim & Jan), which featured predictions from Thomas Frey, the Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute. In many ways, his predictions were more common sense than new ideas. For example, he encouraged leaders to surround themselves with smart people, so they can learn from them, and he also said the important skills learned as a leader come from experience, not textbooks. This bring up another quote from Yogi, "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." 

The one piece of advice that we should all take to heart is that future leaders need to be flexible, adaptable and open to learning new things at a very rapid pace. This is not only good advice, but it reminds us of the value diversity brings to teams. If we are to survive the future, we need to embrace diversity because without it we will struggle with innovation and change. Diversity encourages the search for new information, new perspectives and gives us the ability to make better decisions. Talking with the same kind of people about the same problems is like Einstein's definition of insanity, but if we embrace diversity in thought, experience, culture, gender and ethnicity we have a much better chance of being open to new ideas and achieving those breakthrough innovations that will help us succeed in an uncertain future. 

One great way to experience diversity (in practice rather than theory) is to get out and do something different. On Wednesday, SIM provided an opportunity for a group of us to spend the evening packing meals for those less fortunate than ourselves at the Feed My Starving Children facility in Schaumburg. If you haven't participated, I encourage you to do so. You get to work with people of all sizes, shapes, ethnicities, beliefs and ages. People with different backgrounds who all share a common goal of helping people in need. It is always a wonderful and a fun experience and just one of the many advantages of being a SIM member. 

If you are interested in participating in more SIM events, please visit our website and sign up for one of the upcoming events. If you are not a SIM member, please consider joining, and if you are a member, you can get a 10% discount by renewing before December 31st just use the promo code EB19.

Your Network is Your NET WORTH!

Jane Prugh,   Board Member

Jane Prugh,

Board Member

Networking has become such an overused term and action that I want to share my perspective on it, share how SIM fosters a community of networking, and remind us all of some Best Practices for Networking. 

Networking is the backbone to nearly everything in life. It is how we meet new people and stay connected with those we already know in all areas of our personal and professional lives. However, it is something we have to do intentionally and continually. It is important to remember that networking is a two-way process in which you provide beneficial support to those in your network as well.

SIM Events provide the community for making and maintaining those connections and to learn from those connections. For example, our recent SIM Fall Gala had 250 business and technology leaders in attendance.  What a plethora of networking opportunities!  If you reconnect with two people and meet just two people that will expand into a longer relationship, it's worth it.  Remember they know someone who connects you to someone, and that person knows someone who connects you to someone, and so on.  Your network grows!...

We all likely know the basics of connecting and networking, and sometimes it's nice to have a refresher. Here are a few quick tips that are among my favorites...

1. Plan Ahead - Who Do You Want to Meet?Who is the audience? Review the attendance list. (SIM has a nice way of displaying the attendee list as an option.) Use social media to learn something about them.

2. "Tell Me More" - Make certain that you give the person your complete attention and ask them clarifying questions. A key concept most are not aware of is that the more questions you ask, and the more others talk about themselves, the more they think YOU are interesting!

3. Body language can speak volumes about a person. Learning to master your body language and effectively reading another's body language is helpful to your social interactions. 
Recognize signs of engagement such as head nods, forward leans, and eye contact. Also look for less engaged cues such as leaning back, frowning, or looking away. These may be signs that it's time to change topics or wrap-up the conversation.

4. Always Add Value - Always try to add value; contribute to the conversation or offer assistance. You can help to connect people, share knowledge/experience or offer personal help. Consistently adding value will build a positive reputation.

5. Follow up - Business networking events typically offer just a short time period for speaking with people. A one-time meeting might not make an impact, reconnecting on the conversation or remembering a personal detail will build the relationship over time. Send an email, or invite your new contact for a coffee meeting.

6. Never Eat Alone - (Book by Keith Ferrazzi ) Sharing a meal is an excellent way to get to know someone better and solidify your connections...and it's fun!

Your network is your net worth!

It's not too early to mark your calendar to plan your networking opportunities at 2019 SIM Events

"Oh, the humanity!"

Paul Corning,    Board Member

Paul Corning,

Board Member

I never cease to be amazed by the challenges projects and programs face achieving the business value that someone used to justify the investment. Strategic technology projects get funded based on changing the way people think and work, yet when those projects are delivered they often fail to drive the people/process changes and never quite achieve the user adoption that is fundamental to the value on which the project was funded.

There are countless articles about the failure rate of technology initiatives but my experience is that technical risk on projects is much lower than the user adoption and people/process change risk. I believe that we long ago reached a tipping point where the greatest challenge on a complex IT project will be the people change and user adoption issues. Even the most advanced and technically challenging work is easier to get right than getting users and executives to change and to use the system and applications as intended.

I think SIM Chicago is similar - that we think about all the events that are held and we attend based on the topics and speakers, but really it is all about the people that are present in the room. Our 300 members are the greatest asset that we offer you, and your decision to show up should be because of who else you know, who you should get to know, or who you can meet that will be in the room.

Our Fall Gala last week brought together 250+ IT executives and professionals, all available and ready for you to meet and add to your network. On Wednesday, November 7th we will join together in Schaumburg to volunteer on behalf of a very worthwhile charity, Feed My Starving Children. Please join us at an upcoming event and get to know more of the SIM Chicago members and peers in your technology community. It is, after all, all about the people.

IT as Short Order Cook vs Business Consultant

Wayne Bulman,    Board Member

Wayne Bulman,

Board Member

Does your organization treat IT like a short order cook instead of a valued business consultant? Are you concerned about the spread of "shadow" IT and aggressively look for ways to stop or throttle it? Are business teams avoiding IT because they feel IT will just say "No?" Do your teams complain about not having a seat at the table when business decisions are made and wonder why? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it's time for a culture shift in IT. 

Rather than IT controlling and dictating how technology is used, enable your business leaders to decide how limited technology services are best leveraged in the enterprise. Instead of IT telling the business what it can and can't do (i.e. a culture of "No"), define and present choices to the business on how IT is best leveraged, help them to make educated decisions, and fully support the outcomes. 

Rather than stamping out "shadow IT" as an evil within your organization, co-opt and guide it as an extension of IT that is embedded within the business. In short, transform IT from just order takers into sought after advisors or business consultants. This was just one of the key lessons learned from a discussion at SIM's recent CIO Breakfast Roundtable on the "Evolving Role of The CIO to Help Drive Business Transformation." 

This message of IT cultural change was also echoed this past Tuesday evening by our keynote speaker for SIM's Fall Gala at the Union League Club. 250 leaders in the IT industry had the pleasure of hearing retired Admiral Mike Rogers (former head of the NSA and US Cyber Command) discuss ways to best address the risks and challenges confronting today's IT organizations. 

His discussion was engaging and the insights he shared from during his career journey were so applicable for all of us. Among the many gems he left me with was his re-enforcement of the theme above from the CIO Roundtable - IT as Business Consultant. IT needs to champion a culture change and shift how it engages with the business. IT needs to reach out and enlist business teams as an extension of IT to help identify the organization's most critical assets and processes as well as identifying potential risks to these business dependencies. 

IT then needs to communicate these risks to business leaders in terms they understand. We need to present them with clear choices on mitigation solutions and potential impacts to their business operations. In other words, IT needs to transform into a business consulting role: Listen, help identify needs, discuss options to address, support the decision, execute.

Throughout the year, SIM-Chicago presents a rich variety of programs to help support CIOs and their teams to help enable business transformation and growth. We also provide a setting for you to engage with peers, build a stronger IT network in Chicago, and find ways to give back to our community. 

Take a look our upcoming SIM Events Schedule and take advantage of an event to gain some helpful insights, build your network, and help give back to our Chicago communities.