The InfoWorld 2011 Technology Leadership Awards

Vision and execution are hallmarks of great leadership, as these 10 technologists proved in pushing their organizations in bold new directions

Leading technology -- as a creator, manager, implementer, and business catalyst -- is no mean feat even in the course of running IT or a business. Technology changes rapidly and often becomes increasingly complex. The problems and opportunities to which it is applied are equally variable, messy, and complex; the easy "just add automation" problems have already been addressed.

Technology leadership in its four key forms is at the heart of InfoWorld.com's mission, so we created the InfoWorld Technology Leadership Awards to honor those who have been exceptional technology leaders over the past two years. No "we did it in six weeks" here -- true technology leadership spans constituencies and technologies, and it's often exemplified by projects years in the making.

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Over this span, our conversations with technology leaders have alerted us to a burgeoning sea change around the use of technology at companies today. To meet this change, we evolved our CTO 25 Awards, which honored CTOs and similarly titled IT executives for outstanding technology implementation efforts, into the Technology Leadership Awards. The TLAs have a broader 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 increasingly providing businesswide inspiration. And not just the CIO or CTO -- IT project managers, admins, architects, and the like are equally capable of contributing, so the TLAs now honor leaders regardless of title.

Second, technology is no longer the sole province of IT. Nearly every business person 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 2011 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 that many technologists bring to the table. Our winners, selected by a panel of InfoWorld editors, fall into four categories of leadership:

  • Business Leadership, which honors technologists who assert leadership in the business itself. This leadership involves technology, but it's not about the technology itself, more about driving business growth or innovation. The fact that the person is in IT is irrelevant; like sales, marketing, finance, manufacturing, and so on, IT employees are first and foremost employees, and these technology leaders act accordingly.
  • Inside IT Leadership, which honors technologists who assert leadership in the realm of IT itself, typically around management and enablement of IT as a whole.
  • Technology Innovation, which honors the creative side of technologists. Here, leadership is about vision and execution, setting a new course for technology, and coming 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 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 (so it's no surprise this category had the greatest number of nominations): designing, deploying, and maintaining the technology systems that the business depends on to succeed.

The TLAs have no set number of winners, nor need there be winners in each category. We're looking for the best, period. (For details on the criteria and how to enter for 2012, go to the InfoWorld Technology Leadership Awards page.)

And we've found it, as the 2011 Technology Leadership Awards winners show. We present them in alphabetical order within each category:

TLA Business Leadership

TLA Inside IT Leaderhip

TLA Technology Innovation

TLA Technology Deployment

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