The CTO's job can be both exhilarating and thankless. Exhilarating in that you get to explore new technologies and figure out how to apply them to create new business opportunities or solve thorny business problems. Thankless in that there's always pressure to do more with less, solve the impossible, and get people to go along with change they may not appreciate the value of. The best CTOs use good people, the right technology, and management skills to meet business challenges.
[ See the full list of winners for the 2008 InfoWorld CTO 25 awards. ]
To choose the winners, a panel of InfoWorld editors and Test Center analysts pored over more than 100 nominations from CTOs themselves and from our own contacts and pool of industry experts. We interviewed all the finalists before making our ultimate selections.
This year's winners tackled all sorts of problems and used a variety of techniques, but we did see some clusters of commonality:
Going beyond the obvious
Several of our winners took existing technology efforts and got new value from them.
Bud Mathaisel of Achievo started hearing customers of his offshore IT facilities were concerned about intellectual property protection, leading him to realize he could upgrade his existing security measures into a business advantage. At UPS, Dave Barnes applied the science of telematics to new aspects of vehicle and driver behavior, using workflow analytics to come up with new ways to save money and time while increasing driver safety.
At Transplace, Vincent Biddlecombe saw an opportunity to use a datacenter refresh effort as a platform for his company's software-as-a-service offering as well. And at Lifetime Products, John Bowden realized that the use of thin clients could secure intellectual property at overseas facilities.
At Southern Polytechnic State University, Bill Gruszka realized that in his campus environment, a dictate-oriented policy on mobile and wireless security was untenable, so he reframed the problem and solved it in a new way that allowed device choice to continue. At Veracode, Chris Wysopal had long been obsessed with security, spending part of his youth in the "white hacker" community. That obsession let him perceive a very different approach to securing applications that formed the basis of his company.
At Digital Realty Trust, Jim Smith saw the advantages of green IT not just in its own datacenters but as something that needed to be championed globally -- which he then proceeded to do via standards efforts -- while leading the way at his own company. Sun's Greg Papadopolous saw a similar challenge in the datacenter and initiated Project Blackbox both to help solve it and give Sun a renewed chance to compete.
Making the big initiative happen
Many CTOs are instrumental in enabling a key business objective through the implementation of a key technology. This year's CTO 25 winners had several such examples. For example, Virgin America's Bill Maguire had to start an airline from scratch in just months, and to do so he made a risky bet on open source technology.