The InfoWorld 2012 Technology Leadership Awards

Vision and execution are hallmarks of great leadership, as these 11 technologists proved in pushing their organizations in bold new directions

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J. Wolfgang Goerlich, Munder Capital Management
J. Wolfgang Goerlich , information systems and security manager, Munder Capital Management

Financial services provider Munder Capital Management had decided on an aggressive growth strategy requiring a world-class IT infrastructure that had to respond quickly and provide a platform for growth. But J. Wolfgang Goerlich, information systems and security manager, faced a problem in executing that business strategy: The existing systems -- the applications, servers, storage, network, and the data center itself -- were unable to scale to the new demands.

Goerlich responded with two initiatives:

  • Under a "one team, one system" plan, he restructured the software development and network operations efforts. Often called devops, this method increased the team's productivity by building cooperation, coordination, and alignment.
  • The "not a cloud in the sky" initiative was meant to revitalize the applications, servers, and storage. Using the principles created by infrastructure-as-a-service providers, he restructured his IT services to gain the best of both on-premise and cloud computing, reducing the number of servers from 137 to 43 and the number of custom applications from 317 to 272.

As a result of these two initiatives, the six-person IT team then outsourced the physical aspects of IT and built the needed modern infrastructure -- without raising the organization's budget for technology. Yet the team has 20 percent of its time allocated for improving the team and building new competencies, to keep it forward-thinking.

The IT team's metrics underscore the result of the management change: Pushes to production were increased from monthly to daily (42 on an average month), yet failed changes decreased from 17 percent to 4 percent, application feature deployment periods decreased from 45 days to five days, and server deployment periods decreased from eight hours to 30 minutes.

Baraa Khamis, Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority
Baraa Khamis , IT and security manager, Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority

The Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi formed in 2007 as an independent government body to formulate, incubate, and implement strategic policies under the crown prince. The EAA started off owning all its technology assets, which proved to be difficult to manage as the authority grew and took on more initiatives. A year ago, the EAA outsourced its entire IT operations as a managed IT service. Internally, IT became focused on technology strategy and security.

As manager of that strategic IT group, Baraa Khamis decided to remake the technology platform into a forward-looking one rather than perpetuate the traditional IT environment for users. Although still managed by the outsourcer, the direction comes from Khamis' group. A couple initiatives were common to many leading organizations: Migrating more than 40 physical servers to a virtual infrastructure and creating a remote disaster-recovery site.

In a post-PC world where users are no longer anchored to a specific PC at a specific location, Khamis decided that the design of the technology environment had to be very different than what companies have been building, whether internally or through outsourcers. The goal: "Users would be able to leverage the flexibility and mobility that the infrastructure provides and access information wherever they are and even take their extensions with them while they are in a business trip."

That led to a couple novel changes in the EAA's technology approach: It decommissioned all laptops and desktop PCs in the organization and replaced them with tablets running virtual desktops, and it eliminated the use of passwords in favor of a unique, easy-to-use two-factor authentication approach. To do so, Khamis developed a security strategy in which information is saved in the EAA's private cloud that has secured access, rather than worrying about securing the user devices.

Khamis notes, "Our model is all about providing information anywhere, any time, and using any device by using desktop virtualization and application streaming, so information never gets saved on the user device," eliminating all the idiosyncrasies and complexities of protecting those various devices. The EAA also gives users isolated environments (red/blue networks) that keeps information safe and doesn't allow it to transit to less trusted networks, for those users who have especially sensitive information.

Mihir Shah, Fidelity Asset Management
Mihir Shah , CTO, Fidelity Asset Management

Fidelity Investment Management Technology (FIMT) is a team of 1,500 professionals providing technology services and solutions for multiple divisions within Fidelity's Asset Management Business line.

Hired into the new CTO position at Fidelity Asset Management, Mihir Shah found every Asset Management division had technology teams working in silos with minimal collaboration. Every technology team was developing applications and data sources from scratch, and there were no common standards or reuse across the divisions. That siloed structure had resulted in a complex technology environment and lack of business synergies. For example, the multiple data repositories for reference and market data provided a holistic view of the investment management business process, applications duplicated functions across all divisions, and a jumble of platforms meant huge maintenance and integration costs for no benefit while slowing the division's ability to take advantage of new business opportunities.

Shah's strong conviction was that the business-agnostic solutions should be built as common services used by all the business initiatives across the organization. In the new CTO role, he drove the development of a Fidelity Asset Management PaaS (platform as a service) to provide common development tools, infrastructure components, and reusable frameworks for all application development efforts.

The real work was centered not around technology, but instead significant organization change management, a shift supported by the CIO that created a cross-business-unit shared architecture and technology services organization. Shah created the blueprint for this shared function that laid out the architectural principles, the technology road map, and the business-enabling services that PaaS would offer. He then conducted road shows across the business and IT organizations to evangelize the concept and earn buy-in, and he continued to promote its benefits through incremental delivery of its value, so people could see results even as the transformation was in progress.

Now, Fidelity Asset Management has increased both operational efficiency and business flexibility.

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