Leading technology -- as a creator, manager, implementer, and business catalyst -- is no small feat even in the course of running IT or a business. Technology changes rapidly, and it often becomes increasingly complex. The problems and opportunities to which it is applied are equally variable, messy, and involved; the easy "just add automation" problems have already been addressed.
Technology leadership in its four key forms is at the heart of InfoWorld's mission, and the InfoWorld Technology Leadership Awards honor those who have been exceptional technology leaders over the past two years. No "we did it in six weeks" projects here -- true technology leadership spans constituencies and technologies, often exemplified by projects months in the making.
The TLAs have a broad mission to recognize two key shifts in IT.
First, deployment is no longer the main game for IT, even if it remains the bulk of effort spent. Instead, creating value through technology -- within IT, of course, but also by helping the business grow -- is where leadership matters. As technology increasingly permeates the business, IT is providing more businesswide inspiration. Not just the CIO or CTO -- IT project managers, admins, architects, and the like are equally capable of contributing, so the TLAs honor leaders regardless of title.
Second, technology is no longer the sole province of IT. Nearly every businessperson today has been using technology at work and at home for two decades, and most are more than passably familiar with a variety of computer technologies. Thus, limiting technology to the high priests of IT is untenable. But so is the notion that the business is simply a customer of IT; that too suggests a "father knows best" mentality. It's no accident that the main technology drivers of business change were pushed not by IT but by businesspeople in the past two decades: the PC, the Internet, cloud computing, mobile computing, and increasingly social technology. Thus, the TLAs look for technology leadership anywhere in the business, not just within IT.
The 2014 TLAs showcase such leadership across the business and IT, as well as across roles. IT professionals remain the heart of technology leadership -- no surprise to us, given the passion and creativity many technologists bring to the table. Our winners, selected by a panel of InfoWorld editors from nearly 100 nominees, fall into four categories of leadership:
- Business management, which honors technologists who assert leadership in the business itself. This leadership involves technology, but it's less about the technology itself and more about driving business growth or innovation. The fact that the person is in IT is irrelevant; as with sales, marketing, finance, manufacturing, and so on, IT employees are first and foremost employees, and these technology leaders act accordingly.
- IT management, which honors technologists who assert leadership in the realm of IT, typically around management and enablement of IT as a whole.
- Technology creation/enhancement, which honors the creative side of technologists. Here, leadership is about vision and execution to set a new course for technology and come up with novel approaches to make it happen. We don't honor vendors' creation of innovative products here (that's what our Technology of the Year Awards and our Bossie Awards for open source efforts are for), though we do honor internal products created as a by-product of IT innovation, as well as broad technology innovation at vendors.
- Technology deployment, which honors the most exceptional leadership in the types of challenges IT faces day in and day out: designing, deploying, and maintaining the technology systems that the business depends on to succeed. It's no surprise this category had the greatest number of nominations.
The TLAs have no set number of winners, nor need there be honorees in each category. We're looking for the best, period.
We've found it, as the 2014 Technology Leadership Awards winners show. We present them in alphabetical order within each category:
- Clint Jones, GoHealth Insurance
- Karen McNamara, HD Supply