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Order Takers to Innovators

Order Takers to Innovators

How four CIOs energized their staffs to take risks with new technology and generate fresh value for their businesses

When David Behen became IT director for Washtenaw County, Michigan, the department was little more than an order-taker. And not a very good one. It was kind of like the waiter who makes you wait, then brings the entree with the mains and brings you a bottle of Grange when you asked for a carafe of the house red.

"They never brought projects in on time and always overspent," says Behen. "The IT department had no credibility."

Fast forward a few years, and that same IT department is implementing a wireless project that delivers on the county's promise to improve service to its citizens and bridges the digital divide between far-flung residents. This innovative initiative was born within that same, previously disdained IT department and stands as evidence of the organization's evolution from a reactive entity to a proactive business partner. Behen, now Washtenaw County's deputy county administrator and CIO, says he has reinvented his job, transforming it from enabler to "policy-maker and community engager".

This kind of change is hard. But when it happens, it elevates the status of IT and brings benefits to the business. Here Behen and CIOs from DePaul University, Foley & Lardner, and Pitt Ohio Express share the steps they've taken to lead IT's shift from prodigal back-office order-taker to forward-thinking partner in innovation. In August, all three were recognized by US CIO as CIO 100-winning IT leaders.

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