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Issue 005

Everything to everyone: the new role of the chief digital officer 12


How predictive analytics alters behavior 96 Netflix is breaking the barriers of your screens 116

The truly radical tech executive doesn’t

IS need to destroy in order to innovate


Todd Unger Chief Digital Officer Daily Racing Form

Today’s audiences demand technology that’s just as strong as the content they consume. For every award-winning television series, there’s the expectation that episodes can stream at super-high speeds. For every moment of wonder in a dark theater, there’s the understanding that the institution behind it runs on a reliable infrastructure. For every ticket purchased by eager patrons, there’s trust that their data is secure. Sync’s FOCUS section explores the role of technology in ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT, pushing the thought leaders of today to blend technology into the arts so well that we don’t even know it’s there.

That’s kind of like magic. Except we know it’s real.

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10 Upgrade Your Performance


36 Empower Your Peers

Alex and Ani is making the 17 online shopping experience as individualized as its jewelry line

Brad Cowles on crafting an IT department for “$13 billion startup” HD Supply


Chief Digital Officer = Chief Everything Officer


The IT smarts behind arts & crafts giant Wilton Brands


“It’s like having a mansion, and you only use the bedroom, but you still have to pay the utility to cool it and heat it.”


Stefano Concina on how learning to lead made him a better CTO


How Staples is embracing a hybrid digital/physical storefront model


Interview Cassandra Yates talks finding the best new talent in tech


Failure leads to innovation for the CEO of Solar SpeedRack


Interview The challenges of building a secure infrastructure for Doss Aviation



Transforming the Google of the ‘70s into 52 a mainframe & cloud heavyweight for today

Insight The best laid plans against cyberattacks Lili Hall pushes the boundaries of digital marketing


“Don’t wait for someone to give you a job 60 description. Think what you can do, what you can develop.” Interview A former CIO leads fleet management company Vnomics as a tech-facing CEO


Making the leap to the cloud with Egenera 68

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Issue 005






Move Ideas Into the World

ARTs & Entertainment

“If you’re not buying 96 hollandaise sauce from us, we can sell you hollandaise sauce.”

The chief product officer of 116 Netflix is creating an adventure for the future of streaming entertainment

Reinventing the reputation of big telecom


Inside Look How Jim Schinski positioned a lean IT team for success after a corporate reshuffle


The power of video—in recruitment


Interview J.D. Power & Associates’ CTO doesn’t run a team of order-takers


Larry Allen reimagines the CIO role in a health-care setting


Lextech pioneers the app-development roadmap


Year One Shaun Smith wants IT to revolutionize commercial leasing


High tech standards are set by customers 100 at Rent-A-Center

The technology behind the music at the San Francisco Symphony


Todd Unger brings horseplayers into the 21st century


Interview How Caesars Entertainment keeps its data locked up tighter than its cash

Inner Circle



Meet and connect with the influential leaders featured in this issue of Sync

Data Acquired Favorite facts and figures we learned in this issue


Listening List Podcasts to inspire today’s tech leaders


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advertisers index

people & companies index


UL, 27

Adcom Solutions, 103 Advantech, 66 AT&T Business Solutions, 102 Bazaarvoice, 83 Blue Horseshoe, 41 Check Point, 123 Cognizant, 55 Deloitte Consulting, 77 Edgile, 30 Enertia Software, 22 ESI, 44 Fidello, 48 Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare, 69 Intel, 65 IPMI, 81 KNOCK inc., 34 Nutanix, 88 Object Frontier Software, 16 OnX, 59 Precima, 98 Rackspace, 19 RealFoundations, 95 Sylint, 40 Teklead Corporation, 85 The Executives’ Club of Chicago, 99 Transit Broker, 75

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Virtusa, 85 VLCM, 48 WatchGuard, 30 Webonise, 115 Windstream, 61

People & Companies

Alex and Ani, 17 Allen, Larry, 86 Anaqua, 60 Bailey, Gary, 20 Bekker, Igor, 17 Caesars Entertainment, 121 Concina, Stefano, 42 Cowles, Brad, 56 Daily Racing Form, 112 Digi-Me, 78 Doss Aviation, 49 Egenera, 68 ESI, 42 Farnsworth, Alan, 62 Geng, Scott, 68 Gillman, Evan M., 72 Hall, Lili, 31 HD Supply, 56 Healthcare Network of South Florida, 86 Hunt, Neil, 116 Imansantosa, Ganjar, 28 Iyer, Priya, 60 J.D. Power & Associates, 82 Jaffe, Lonne, 52 Karras, Paul, 38 KNOCK inc., 31 Lextech, 91 Liebe, Christi, 100 Masud, Faisal, 23 Miller, Jonathan, 82 Netflix, 116 Penn Virginia Corporation, 20 Phillips Edison & Company, 93 Rent-A-Center, 100 Saitta, Jo Ann, 12 Sample, Chuck, 96 San Francisco Symphony, 106 Schinski, Jim, 76 Scott, Will, 90 Shamloo, Shane, 26 Smith, Shaun, 93 Solar SpeedRack, 26 Stanton, Lindsay, 78 Staples, 23 Syncsort, 52 Talen Energy, 76 The CDM Group, 13 Transit Broker, 72 Trujillo, Jamie, 49 Unger, Todd, 112 US Foods, 96 VivaKi, 45 Vnomics, 62 William Worthington, 121 Wilton Brands, 38 Wright, Neal, 106 Yates, Cassandra, 45



Managing Editor Megan Bungeroth


Guerrero Howe, LLC

Associate Editor Christopher James Palafox Contributors Matt Alderton Melissa Anders Kristen Bahler Zach Baliva Taryn Barnes Topher Bordeau Peter Fabris Geoff George Keith Loria Emma Janzen Jessica Montoya Coggins Julie Schaeffer Jeff Silver Amy Michelle Smith Tina Vasquez Terri Williams


VP of Production & Creative Director Karin Bolliger Senior Designer Mary K. Delaware Photo Editor & Staff Photographer Caleb Fox

Sales & Account Management

Managing Directors Kyle Evangelista Philip Taylor Director Steven Zucker Underwrites Director Justin Joseph

CEO Pedro Guerrero Managing Director of Operations Cassie Rose Managing Director of Marketing Sean Conner Reprints & Circulation Director Stacy Kraft stacy@guerrerohowe. com Client Services Director Cheyenne Eiswald Senior Client Services Manager Rebekah Pappas Recruitment Director Elyse Glab Financial Analyst Mokena Trigueros Finance Client Services Coordinator Katie Richards Receptionist Amanda Paul

Content & Advertising Managers Claire Mahoney Account Managers Will Mahoney Kemp Pile Allison Ruggirello Senior Sales Executives Titus Dawson Brian Wolff Director of Accounts Ashley Watkins National Sales Director Dominique DiVito

Subscriptions + Reprints For a free subscription, please visit Printed in China. Reprinting of articles is prohibited without permission of Guerrero Howe, LLC. For reprint information, contact Stacy Kraft at 312.256.8460 or Sync MagazineÂŽ is a registered trademark of Guerrero Howe, LLC.

Issue 005

From the editor

When the Sync team decided to craft a Focus section on tech in the arts and entertainment industry, we were excited to share stories about how technology functions behind the scenes in unexpected places.

Cover photo and Megan Bungeroth photo by Caleb Fox

Megan Bungeroth Sync Managing Editor

Unger introduces new digital products while staying true to DRF’s core business.

Who knew that a symphony needs a CIO, or that whole teams at Netflix are dedicated to analyzing the data produced by viewers picking between a comedy and an action flick? A Las Vegas casino is fortified by a massive security infrastructure, but we learned that the emphasis is now on protecting information, not cash. And our cover subject, Todd Unger of Daily Racing Form, continually challenges his 121-year-old print-based publishing company to innovate for digital without abandoning its roots. The section offers a fascinating peek into how IT plays a crucial part in dazzling audiences around the world. As we worked on the issue, however, it became clear that this theme is present throughout. Technology is always working in hidden, delightful ways. Take the story of Alan Farnsworth (p. 62), who translated his experience as a CIO for a global eye-health corporation into his leadership as CEO of Vnomics, enabling truck fleets to collect, process and make use of their data. Or consider the work that Lindsay Stanton does at Digi-Me (p. 78) to allow recruiters to figure out not just who applies for their jobs, but where they do it, from what social platforms, and how they share that posting. It’s a jolting reminder that everything, from the trucks rumbling down the interstate to the candidate on a career search website, produces staggering quantities of data, and where data exists, smart tech leaders are needed. They’re also needed to bolster other organizations, as you’ll see with Syncsort (p. 52), which CEO Lonne Jaffe has transformed from “the Google of the ‘70s and ‘80s” to a provider

of software that supports the cloud as well as the mainframe. Faisal Masud, executive vice president of global e-commerce at Staples (p. 23), has positioned his company as the fourth largest e-retailer in the country by pursuing omni-channel experiences and catering to businesses that need more than pens and paper. Even in the pages of this magazine, our talented and incisive guest editor, Patty Hatter, has been providing her expert take and shaping the contents of what you’re reading in much the same way that she leads the information tech team at Intel Security—by serving as a guide and stepping back to let others shine. Hatter is also a proponent of what all of the executives featured in Sync would tell you, in one form or another: it’s imperative for technology to become part of the business. In some cases, this happens so seamlessly as to render the technology almost invisible, just as the hard work of producers and stage managers goes unnoticed in the final film or musical—and that’s how you know it’s working. We are proud to place these tech leaders squarely in the spotlight for a change. They might not be singing and dancing, but they are doing the heavy lifting to ensure that you get to keep watching, keep working, keep thinking and creating. For that, each one deserves a standing ovation.

Megan Bungeroth

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guest editor

Patty Hatter Sync 005 Guest Editor

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Issue 005

guest editor

When we initially discussed the idea of my becoming the first guest editor for Sync, I have to admit I was momentarily perplexed. Then, I immediately said yes to the opportunity. I realized that this is yet another form of work that reflects my consistent approach for taking on new things throughout my career. Don’t overthink it, just be confident in my ability—then do it. Pioneering new, innovative business solutions and embracing risk are the new norm for today’s CIO. Come to think of it, it’s the new executive norm in any form of business. If you pause, even for a minute, you’ve missed an opportunity. Not necessarily a career opportunity, but an opportunity to discover what it feels like to challenge yourself, regardless of the hesitation, the fear, or the unknown. A person’s ability to trust in herself makes for a great leader. Actions resulting in continued success make you even greater. This issue of Sync contains numerous examples of people who, when facing a challenge, would not allow a moment of hesitation to impede their progress. Instead, they took risks to develop innovative and winning solutions, processes, and tools. They’ve demonstrated a great ability to have vision, and produced collaborative team environments to partake in the victory. Furthermore, customers are reaping the benefits of an improved and more agile, secure digital environment. From retail, to

learning institutions, to entertainment and governed entities—the impact of technical innovation, stoked by our willingness to accept the challenge to make our world better, is undeniably evident. As leaders in the tech field, we have great possibilities for creating truly amazing things. I encourage you to continue to believe in your ability and to step outside of your comfort zone and do great things. Because when you do, we all win.

We asked Hatter to share her insights on some of the stories of tech leadership featured in this issue. Look for this symbol to see what she has to say.

Guest Editor Gary Bailey undertakes a strategic downscale at Penn Virginia Corporation p. 20 Led by Faisal Masud, Staples is transforming the e-commerce landscape p. 23 Information security expert Ganjar Imansantosa shares his thoughts on planning for cyberattacks p. 28 Cassandra Yates explains how she sources the best minds in tech for VivaKi p. 45

Patty Hatter Sync 005 Guest Editor Intel Corporation VP and GM, Intel Security and Software Group IT & CIO, Intel Security Group

After his company spun off his division, Jim Schinski made his IT team effective at Talen Energy p. 76 Will Scott is a “mobile passionista” for app-creation company Lextech p. 90 At Caesars Entertainment Las Vegas, William Worthington relies on his team to keep information secure p. 121 Check out the best tidbits from our Twitter chat with Hatter on p. 25. Turn to p. 124 for an in-depth Q&A between Sync’s managing editor and Hatter.

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THINK Upgrade Your Performance

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Issue 005


Chief People Business Communication Technology Data Management Finance Coding Change

Digital Officer Jo Ann Saitta is defining the role at The CDM Group, and for the industry at large. In a position that requires more than tech expertise to bring analog functions into the digital age, Saitta explores how the job is founded in soft skills. By Tina Vasquez | Photos by Caleb Fox

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Jo Ann Saitta had the good luck to take a programming class in high school, back when most schools— especially in secondary education—weren’t offering such things. That class changed the course of her life.

Jo Ann Saitta The CDM Group Chief Digital Officer 14 / Sync

Without it, she wouldn’t have known computer science was an option. Not only did she go on to obtain her BA and master’s in computer science, but she was hired by IBM directly out of college, where she spent the next eleven years. Saitta was a part of the IT revolution, and working with IBM, she was able to watch the various phases of the industry unfold. Before taking her current role as chief digital officer of The CDM Group, the world’s largest fully-integrated global health-care communications company, she spent time at Prudential Financial, and then jumped to health-care commercialization and communications companies. It’s the versatility the IT industry enables that has long been a selling point to the CDO. “I’ve always loved how technology skills and knowledge were transferable from one industry to another,” Saitta says. “Moving into different verticals offers even more experience. If I hadn’t moved away from coding into other areas, I wouldn’t have gained any people management experience. I still love solving problems with technology, but I can also say that if you don’t know the business side, you’re only going to get so far and have limited impact.” The role Saitta now holds, chief digital officer, isn’t one that always existed, especially not with the frequency it does now. According to MIT Sloan Management Review, the emergence of the CDO role began around 2010, mostly in media and retail industries, and primarily for the purpose of blending business initiatives with social media savvy. Now, the role is appearing across all industries with a decidedly different purpose: to provide oversight and strategy, using social and digital technologies to make an impact on the overall organization. “As the role continues to emerge and companies

continue to define what they need from it, it only provides a better foundation to expand,” Saitta explains. “Not only does the role enable companies to streamline their processes, but it also enables them to monetize technology.” Saitta says that a succesful CDO will master cross-functional skills, noting that executives need to understand how to transfer technology to business. And perhaps what’s becoming even more important is that they have to lead and motivate people to both support and buy into a company’s digital strategy. Saitta stresses the importance of understanding business; it’s no longer good enough to be proficient at coding or stay on top of tech trends. Unless they can understand the business and finance sides and develop the people skills to break down complicated tech talk in a way that non-IT people can understand, executives are dead in the water. “More and more we’re seeing financial strategies being developed around tech initiatives,” Saitta says. “In that way, the CDO is responsible for transformation, and without getting people to buy in to what you’re doing, you won’t get the support, funding, or resources you need to make things happen.” Thanks to media representations, many have ideas in their heads about IT folks: primarily men, geeky, off in their own techy world, disconnected from the organization. But people like Saitta are changing the landscape, embodying the attributes she says are necessary to be a successful IT leader. She has an aversion to the term “IT,” arguing that it evokes the wrong images and value propositions for business technology leaders. “You need communication skills, leadership and team building skills, and technical skills,” Saitta says. “You have to have an understanding of the industry, Issue 005

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“Data is our most valuable resource, and we’re going to preserve it, optimize it, and strengthen it to be used for good purposes and best practices.”

but also the business. You should have the ability to be a change agent without being a bulldozer. Influencing others is important, and so are critical thinking skills and a keen understanding of data.” Being a change agent requires understanding where an industry has been in order to work to meet its future needs. According to Saitta, health care will only come to rely more heavily on technology, especially in ways that help patients become more empowered. Moving forward, Saitta has to ensure The CDM Group doesn’t become technologically stagnant. She wants the company to thrive as the industry continues to change, and technology becomes more central to how providers and patients interact and exchange information. “My focus is going to be applying technology to improve health care and communication and developing products that make that possible,” she says. “I want to really use data and have it be a key driver in all the products we produce. Data is our most valuable resource, and we’re going to preserve it, optimize it, and strengthen it to be used for good purposes and best practices.”

OFS—WHO WE ARE OFS is a software engineering firm that builds innovative digital products for its corporate clients to propel them past their competition. Founded in 1997 and with over 500 employees, OFS leverages its deep heritage of building commercial software products to create compelling digital customer experiences that all businesses require to succeed in today’s digital world.

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Even before you log in,

Igor Bekker knows what’s on your shopping list. The VP of e-commerce at jewelry and lifestyle brand Alex and Ani explores how the Internet can push the shopping experience toward fully customized digital storefronts By Joann Plockova

Igor Bekker Alex and Ani VP of Digital Marketing & E-Commerce

Igor Bekker has always embraced his inherent entrepreneurial spirit. It’s what led him to run several fashion-focused stores through the eBay Marketplace around the time the site was launched in the nineties. After seeing those stores gain success in the early days of Internet sales, Bekker transitioned from this trial run into direct-to-consumer—having determined what customers were buying —by launching an e-commerce site. “I got bit by the bug,” says Bekker. That bug led him to head e-commerce at the Swatch Group, TrendToGo. com, and NYGARD International, one of the world’s largest women’s apparel manufacturers, before taking on his current role as vice president of e-commerce and digital marketing at Alex and Ani, a jewelry producer and retailer, in May of 2014. “I was looking for a position where I could practice both commerce and marketing in an entrepreneurial environment,” Bekker says. Alex and Ani mirrors Bekker’s affinity for entrepreneurship; the company has grown exponentially since its founding in 2004, and places a premium on building a lifestyle brand as much as it does on producing and selling jewelry.

But while Bekker has found himself again in the fashion realm, it’s his interest in commerce and digital that has kept him there. “It’s fairly complex in terms of being able to sell to an unknown audience and, whether through marketing, strategy, or experience, use calculated metrics to understand consumer behavior—their psychological triggers that give them the impulse to buy—without really sitting in front of the customer in a conventional brick- and-mortar store, “ says Bekker. “Really understanding the impact of trend, and the impact of outside influences like economy, demographic, and persona, is something I find very interesting.” Becoming familiar with what motivates customers to buy is the e-commerce department’s main focus for 2016. To do so requires building what Bekker calls a “digital persona” around each individual visitor, and then using that information to inform both the onsite and offsite experience. It’s about “really understanding what that persona is and then tying in solutions that comprise this persona,” he says. Alex and Ani Sync / 17


“[The goal is] to really understand how we can exchange data safely without violating privacy, yet drive the best experience for the customer.”

Alex and Ani strives to mirror its customized in-store experience in its online offerings.

53 Rank of Alex

and Ani in the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in 2014

5,221% Three-year growth rate of the company as reported by Inc.

$230M Alex and Ani’s reported revenue in 2013

1,106 Alex and Ani employees in 2015

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models that approach in their physical stores too; employees are encouraged to spend time listening to customers’ personal stories to find them the right piece, with different charms—from mermaids and the Star of Venus, to lobsters and lotuses—representing different energies. Bekker works to craft the online version of that personal shopping experience. “Our product is very custom; it has meaning behind it. So really [it’s] being able to tie our custom product with whatever meaning it has to each customer.” At the heart of this model is Customer Relationship Management, and in particular, Data Management Platforms (DMP). “DMP is really the foundation of all digital in terms of persona,” says Bekker. His team integrates the information that is fed into the DMP—including searching merchandising tools, CMS, demand-side platforms, and social products—that will in turn cull the information to create a personal online experience. “In retail, building a true 360-degree view of the customer hasn’t been done yet,” says Bekker. What puts his e-commerce department at the forefront is its ability to leverage all available data and put the pieces together better than anyone else. Bekker emphasizes the importance of doing so without creating custom proprietary software. He advises other tech leaders seeking to evolve the e-commerce experience to follow the same path. Instead of focusing

on taking everything in-house, which stagnates the business, he suggests focusing on what will help the business to move forward faster. “At Alex and Ani, we’re focused on our growth, our customer, and our product, and being able to find the right technologies to support that growth,” says Bekker. “Not on building massive proprietary IT departments.” Bekker sees the industry headed toward the merging of the CIO and CMO roles into the evolving title of chief digital officer. “It’s already happening,” Bekker says. Since that job requires an aptitude for both tech and marketing, Bekker sees the CDO as someone who is both analytical and financially driven. Bridging these two formerly disparate roles could ideally create checks and balances on both sides. For Bekker, the future online shopping experience would see shoppers enjoying a completely personalized experience, no matter the website. “No two sessions should be the same,” he says. Alex and Ani is looking to partner with its wholesale retail partners to accomplish just this. “[The goal is] to really understand how we can exchange data safely without violating privacy, yet drive the best experience for the customer. So understanding what the true touch points of that customer are throughout the web and then modifying that onsite experience based on what we learned—that’s really where the industry is moving.”

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“it’s Like putting ten pounds of sand in a fivepound bag.” Gary Bailey built the IT infrastructure for Penn Virginia Corporation as it grew from 2005 to 2010. He then had to turn around and downscale carefully when the company contracted. By Geoff George 20 / Sync

Issue 005


Gary Bailey Penn Virginia Corporation VP of IT

Guest Editor

When Gary Bailey joined Penn Virginia Corporation in 2005, the company was composed of a dense web of interconnected businesses. It was engaged in oil and gas exploration and production in several geographic locations, and it also owned a controlling interest in Penn Virginia Resource Partners, a publically traded partnership occupied with natural resource land management and the gathering and processing of natural gas. Bailey, a veteran of the IT world since the days of Hollerith’s punch cards and mainframes, had been in the energy industry since 1982. He was tasked with expanding Penn Virginia’s technological framework to better fit its multifaceted corporate structure. As he worked toward his current position as vice president of IT, he built his team from two to fifteen, upgraded various technologies, and, in concert with the accounting and management teams, switched the company over to SAP’s intricate ERP software in 2007. By 2012, though, Penn Virginia had divested its interest in Penn Virginia Resource Partners to become a pure-play exploration and production company focused on unconventional shale plays. Its headcount fell significantly as a result. And Bailey’s job completely reversed course, from building up the company’s increasingly complex technological framework to downscaling it. Bailey got his start in computer accounting and auditing and understands well the importance of maintaining the right amount of IT infrastructure for the right amount of money. He knew by 2012 that though SAP’s software had been appropriate for the kind of multifaceted company Penn Virginia had been, it was too complicated and costly for the focused company it had become. The software, built primarily for retail and manufacturing companies, was grand in scale and server intensive, and it included modules that Penn Virginia didn’t even need. “It wasn’t because of functionality or because SAP had a bad product; in fact, it is a very good product,” Bailey says. “It was just because it was unnecessarily complex and expensive for our needs. It’s like having a mansion, and you only use the bedroom, the

Undertaking an IT systems and business operations enhancement is vital for optimum business strategy and cost effectiveness across the business environment. This challenge is not for the weak of heart, and can be done effectively with a high level of collaboration and understanding from all stakeholders.

kitchen, and the TV room, but you still have to pay the utility to cool it and heat it and maintain it.”

“You’d take column A, compare it to column B, and do some calculations. Multiplied by a hundred or a thousand times, you can see how difficult the data conversion was.”

To remedy this, Bailey worked again with Penn Virginia’s accounting and management teams to transition the company to Enertia’s ERP software. Enertia runs in a more basic Microsoft SQL Server environment, has a smaller technical footprint, and requires far less third-party support. According to Bailey, Enertia has approximately 150 oil-and-gas customers whereas SAP has significantly fewer—and most using SAP are large companies that need to track a vast amount of data. The most difficult part of the conversion was condensing the data in the SAP system to fit it into the new Enertia system. “It’s like putting ten pounds of sand in a five-pound bag,” Bailey says. “You’d take column A, compare it to column B, and do some calculations and interpretations to derive the data that Enertia was wanting. You multiply that over a hundred or a thousand times, then all of a sudden you can see how difficult the data conversion was.” Bailey and his team spent more than half a year compressing the data, but when they were

• How important is your ability to understand marketing, sales, and business operations to help achieve buy-in from your business partners when overhauling IT systems in your organization? • What tough decisions do you need to make when considering outsourced services? Sync / 21



done, Penn Virginia had a leaner ERP system that better matched its business needs. Bailey estimates the new system, over the course of its first five years, will save the company approximately $3 million. To round out the capabilities of the Enertia system, Bailey, in collaboration with key departmental managers, has also implemented a few special-purpose software products: EMK3, 3esi, and RIMBase3. The first handles Penn Virginia’s marketing concerns (product pricing, purchaser information, transportation costs to deliver the products, etc.), the second tackles planning and forecasting matters such as cost estimates for new drilling projects, and the third helps track the management and operation of the company’s wells. As a final move to scale back, Bailey has switched Penn Virginia’s telecommunications infrastructure from a multiprotocol label-switching (MPLS) network to a simplified virtual private network (VPN). The MPLS network was a dedicated system that worked well when the company had offices in several states, but now Penn Virginia can maintain privacy among fewer locations using the VPN’s firewalls. Bailey hasn’t had to further stabilize his company’s IT infrastructure through colocation because he already did so in 2010. Penn Virginia’s data center now resides in a CyrusOne facility that is protected from heat, extreme weather, power failures, and physical security breaches, saving the company serious money on data center management costs. Between 2016 and 2018, Bailey aims to continue strengthening Penn Virginia’s security against cyberattacks while adding new business-intelligence, enhanced-management-reporting, and mobile capabilities. And, no matter the update, he’ll work to make sure it comes at the right price. Issue 005


The Future is Not Physical (But it’s Not only Digital, Either) How Staples is transforming the e-commerce experience and embracing a hybrid approach to shopping in the Internet age By Kristen Bahler

Photo by Katherine Ring

Faisal Masud Staples EVP of Global E-Commerce

Staples, the office supply mainstay, is shedding its shopping center image for a modernized approach. In 2014, the mega-retailer shuttered nearly 200 brick and mortar stores to focus on its online home, The same year, to further bolster e-commerce efforts, Staples opened its third innovation lab in Seattle, Washington, following similar launches in San Mateo, California, in 2013 and Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2012. But the biggest move Staples has made to prepare for a digital future, perhaps, has been to bring in the person to lead these changes. Faisal Masud, Staples’s executive vice president of global e-commerce, joined the firm in 2013. Masud began his career at, a venture-capital-funded online delivery service, before hopping to executive roles at eBay and Amazon. Most recently, he worked as vice president and general manager of Groupon, where he was tasked with heading up retail strategy and merchandising, inventory, marketing, engineering, and operations. Today, Masud has oversight of Staples’ digital presence, and in his short tenure, has penetrated the market with a decidedly entrepreneurial approach. Leading a team of several hundred engineers and e-commerce veterans, Masud has Sync / 23


“My role here is to figure out what the customer of the future wants.”

Guest Editor

Enhancing your customer digital experience— an exercise in leveraging value and cost efficiency—may ensure you stay ahead of the market. It takes tremendous innovation and an acute understanding of your customer needs to stay on top of today’s e-commerce environment. • What innovative tactics have you employed to determine evolving customer needs within your market? • What do you see as key factors for consideration as we look toward the new “hybrid” of the physical and digital customer experience?

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scooped up talent from startups and private businesses across the country and has helped launch back-end outposts in California, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C., among other locations. “We’re really expanding our thought process to incorporate a lot more digital initiatives,” Masud says. “We’re building the talent and reporting and using data sets that really put digital at the forefront.” It’s a bold move for Staples, which is distancing itself from the retail office supply pack to better compete in the digital world. Online sales have offered the company a beacon of hope. Today, Staples is the fourth largest e-retailer in the country, behind only Apple, Amazon, and Walmart. But to compete with the industry giants, and to not lose additional ground to Walmart—whose web sales growth outpaced every online retailer in 2014—Staples has to rethink its online business model. That’s where Masud comes in. In his new role, he has helped Staples construct a fresh vision for the changing retail landscape. As more consumers move online to purchase the products that power their lives, Staples aims to be the go-to resource for everything B2B. Largely, that means increasing the sheer volume of products available for purchase on In the last two years, the company has added more than a million SKUs to its website, with the bulk of the new products catering to four industries: restaurant, retail, hospitality, and health care. “The big picture is really extending the selection beyond office supplies for all B2B,” Masud says. “It’s not just pens and papers and supplies anymore; we want to be a one-stop shop for all business needs.” Winning market share takes more than just adding volume, though. Today’s consumers want an omni-channel experience: fast, affordable purchase options, and the ability to make those decisions from all of their devices. “Part of my role here is to figure out what the customer of the future wants,” Masud says. “Let’s be clear: it’s not going to be physical. But it’s not going to be just digital, either—it’s going to be a hybrid.” Technology initiatives, like a just-launched mobile app that allows users to design business cards, invita-

FAISAL MASUD’S GUIDING PRINCIPLES Treat your team the way you want to be treated. Nobody likes a micromanager, so avoid being one. Maintain the highest hiring bar. Don’t just hire right away to fill an empty seat. Hire the best employees based on core competencies so they can have autonomy in making decisions, allowing them to move fast and execute. Think digital for the customer first. The future is not analog, so ensure you start with digital and work your way backward.

tions, and more (the product of the company’s recent acquisition of Makr, a Brooklyn-based startup) will help meet the demand for a multi-channel experience. But the move toward a seamless, user-friendly online and mobile interface must be supported by a modernized storefront, Masud says. So while Staples works to revamp its digital business plan, the company is using technology, like price-matching initiatives and kiosks that provide endless aisles for products not available in-store, to improve the shopping experience in its storefronts. “We’re playing big in services; we want a worldclass experience for our customers,” Masud says. It’s a new world for the retailer. In some ways, it’s a new world for Masud as well—this is the first time he’s worked in a newly-created role designed specifically for someone with his skill set. “To really understand a business like Staples is complex—there’s a contract business and enterprise market and an online business,” he says. “Not many companies have three robust channels. Having to navigate these waters has been challenging and interesting at the same time.” As a self-proclaimed “evangelist of digital,” Masud’s allegiances are clear. But his motivation doesn’t stray far from any retail executive’s­—he’s always thinking about the customer experience. “The things customers want these days are speed, convenience, and the best price,” he says. “We want to hedge our bets on all three of those things.” Issue 005


Wisdom in 140 Characters Sync hosted a Twitter chat with our guest editor, Patty Hatter, the CIO of Intel Security. She discussed how CIOs can get the most out of relationships with their C-suite colleagues and corporate boards, as well as how IT executives should take risks, embrace change, and transform the business. Here are some of the best insights (edited to reduce Twitter-speak).

@Akers_SFbay: As a CIO, what does “modernize” your business mean to you? With Uber, etc. setting the bar for “simple,” how can IT bridge the gap with enterprise applications to drive operational efficiency?

@PattyHatter: IT needs to focus on user experience and be willing to move away from legacy architectures. Moving away from what the IT organization had previously built itself is always harder than it seems, but really necessary.

@KendraLGallegos: What is your best advice for being a strong and focused leader?

@PattyHatter: Broaden your experiences, say “yes” to roles that look the most challenging, speak your mind.

@SyncTechMag: What are some risks you’ve taken as a CIO, and how did they play out for you and your organization?

@PattyHatter: The biggest risks were personnel changes. That was the best thing I could have done. @SyncTechMag: What are some qualities you hold as most important in hiring people for your team?

@PattyHatter: Broad skills, take risks, collaborate, be able to span strategic conversations, keeping control of initiatives

@PrabhaGana: As ever-increasing storage needs grow, how do you continuously evolve to ensure your data center is secure?

@PattyHatter: Great question. Beyond the data center, it is about securing the hybrid cloud most enterprises have built. Look for technologies that easily enable security policies to be consistently pushed out across the cloud.

Join the ongoing conversation with tech leaders by following @SyncTechMag on Twitter, and search #PattyHatterCIO to see more from the chat with Patty. Better yet, turn to page 124 to read our in-depth Q&A.

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Building a Niche of Innovation Shane Shamloo is a serial entrepreneur who has jumped from industry to industry. Here, the inventor talks about his latest business venture—and why it’s his best work thus far. By Kristen Bahler

Shane Shamloo Solar SpeedRack President

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Shane Shamloo wants to change the future of solar power. In 2012, his company, Solar SpeedRack, unveiled its titular product—a racking system that enables the installation of solar panels for less work and less money than the invasive method installation crews commonly use. In 2014, the company debuted GroundMount, a similar system for solar power ground installations. In 2016, Shamloo’s team will launch a series of solar tiles, twelve-by-twelve-inch interlocking photovoltaic plates designed to replace solar panels entirely. Like Solar SpeedRack’s other designs, the tiles cut cost and labor, common deterrents for consumers looking to switch to solar power. But these tiles, created specifically for flat-roof commercial and nonresidential buildings, produce substantially more electrical power than traditional systems, according to Shamloo. “It’s truly revolutionary,” he says—a bold claim for someone who, at age fifty-five, is a relative newcomer to the world of solar power. But as a serial entrepreneur with more than forty business ventures under his belt, Shamloo knows an outsider is better poised to infiltrate an industry than some of its longest-tenured veterans. “As an entrepreneur, you can look from the outside and make improvements,” he says. “You find a niche and you adapt.” Being adaptable is also something Shamloo knows a thing or two about. An Iranian immigrant who came to the United States just before the Islamic revolution, Shamloo was forced to restart his life as a teenager in a foreign country. Those formative years—tumultuous, to be sure—planted the seeds of ambition that would bloom throughout his career. “I came to the US in 1976,” Shamloo says. “My parents weren’t able to support me after the revolution, so I was forced to handle my life without their help. That had

a substantial amount of influence over what has taken place today.” Shortly after the move, Shamloo took an entry-level job at a printing company, where he was struck by a pervasive lack of motivation amongst the employees. From the start, Shamloo put in far more effort than his coworkers who shared his title, even though he had no real stake in the company. “I cared about the job too much, as if it were my own business,” he says. With no interest in climbing the rungs of a tired company ladder, Shamloo decided to start his own printing company. It wasn’t his most lucrative endeavor, but it set his career into motion. After the business shuttered, Shamloo designed Advanced Claims Technology, software that allows insurance companies and automobile repair shops to electronically share pictures and estimates—a piece of technology still in use today. Then, Shamloo started an online auction forum—akin to a local version of eBay—as well as a business that imported building materials from China, a 3-D printing company, and dozens of others. Not every endeavor has been an unbridled success, according to Shamloo. Some, he says, have failed miserably. “With every defeat comes something new. If I fall, I get up and start again—it’s what motivates me.” But Shamloo says that it’s hard to agonize over a defeat when there are so many industries in need of fresh ideas. His current venture is a perfect example: after forging through the 3-D printing industry with a business partner, Michael Salvati, the two decided to branch out into solar power. “[Salvati] said the solar-racking industry was very old, out-of-date, and was lacking innovation and ideas,” Shamloo says. “We thought we could do something about it.” Issue 005


THE FATHER OF INVENTIONS Advanced Claims Technology Shortly after arriving in the United States, Shamloo designed Advanced Claims Technology, software that allows insurance companies and auto repair shops to share photos and price estimates. “It was my first successful venture,” Shamloo says. “And it made a big difference.” Solar SpeedRack The product of collaboration with Michael Salvati, a colleague Shamloo worked with in the 3-D printing field. The SpeedRack was designed to provide a modern, efficient solution to solar panel installation. Solar Tile Small, interlocking photovoltaic plates designed to replace solar panels for commercial buildings that anyone can install, the solar tile is “the most exciting product” Shamloo has worked on, he says.

Together, Shamloo and his partner designed the Solar SpeedRack. Six months later, the device was selected as a finalist in the Intersolar Global competition—a noteworthy achievement because it marked the first time either of them had created a product for this particular industry. Since then, Shamloo and Salvati have gone on to design a variety of solar-power solutions, with their most recent, the photovoltaic solar tile, set to hit the mass market in 2016. “We’re very new at this,” Shamloo admitted. “But innovation and creation is what I enjoy most—it’s what I wake up for every morning.”

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28.05.15 14:07




not action items Information security expert Ganjar Imansantosa says a realistic plan is crucial in the defense against cyberattacks

Ganjar Imansantosa Information Security Expert

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Photo by Kenneth Pfeifer

As told to Tina Vasquez


Experts only

Guest Editor

Being a trusted advisor to the business can change the perception of “disruptive technology projects” and help to create a win-win solution. • CIOs, CTOs, and CISOs are increasing their understanding of the business as a holistic environment— an intersection of business, technology, and security. Has your unique career path included business skills that help you to drive changes and develop trusting partnerships across the enterprise? • How do you go about gaining consensus across the business when proposing necessary “disruptive technology projects”?

I came to information technology from the consulting world, where you were always expected to solve problems. You’re also expected to be goal-orientated and have a unique set of problem-solving skills. These aren’t traits everyone has, but you’re forced to develop these skills—and it’s a good thing. They will become a part of everything you do. These skills have served me well in information technology, where my unique background makes me an asset.

“The biggest struggle is getting companies to recognize that their security framework is likely inadequate and steps need to be taken to rectify that.”

Skill diversity is crucial. This field is growing at a rapid pace and the only way to differentiate yourself and grow in the profession is to have a unique set of skills that you bring to the table. You can be very good at technology, but you also have to understand the business and its goals. I like to think my business background augments my technological expertise.

Never put customers—and their loyalty—at risk. When I first began discussing an end-to-end encryption project, it seemed like a radical approach. It’s becoming more accepted in the retail industry because the need for something like this is now so great. Previously, credit card data was stored, which left customers wide open to fraud. End-to-end encryption means that the data becomes encrypted the moment a customer swipes their card at a payment terminal. The retailer and store employees will never see that data. Even if they wanted to do something malicious, they couldn’t; the data is never stored locally. Even if they did figure out how to access the data, they won’t have any way to decrypt it.

Trust is a must. Overhauling your system for an end-to-end encryption project or just for security purposes requires a lot: reprogramming your registry, retraining your staff, and replacing countless registers. Without the support of your peers and management, you can’t be successful— despite ensuring that customer information remains safe, it will be seen as a disruptive project that nobody understands. You have to be viewed as a trusted advisor.

Breaches are big business. We’re seeing a lot of headlines about hackers because of the amount and type of data being taken. Credit card information can be sold on the black market for two or three dollars, and health records can be sold for ten times that. It’s serious money. Robbers no longer need a gun and a getaway car; they just need a room and a computer. Our methods for protecting information aren’t enough to counter today’s cyberattacks. The biggest struggle is getting companies to recognize that their security framework is likely inadequate and steps need to be taken to rectify that.

Combat information overload. There is information overload happening. Companies are being given an overwhelming list of action items. What they really need is an information security strategy. Even before they think of the money and the cost of investing, they have to really understand the risks and have their priorities in order. I would recommend allowing your information security team to determine the most important risks. After they have this understanding, the decision must be made about how best to mitigate some risks and transfer others because of cost. If you’re overly ambitious, what you’re really doing is creating unrealistic targets for your team. If you don’t strategize in a way that gives your team a few quick wins without having to first invest in multi-million dollar, multi-year projects, they will become demoralized. This is a very important topic­—having the right information security framework in place is crucial, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Sync / 29



Gartner NSS Labs Info-Tech Frost & Sullivan Network Computing PC Pro PC Magazine IT Pro SC Magazine CRN


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Edgile Delivers Professional Services to the Fortune 500 from the Boardroom to the Network Established in 2001 by partners and senior managers from the Big 4, Edgile was created to deliver strategic security and compliance services to Fortune 500 companies. After 12 years in business, Edgile has grown to a nationwide consultancy of security and compliance professionals. Edgile is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and has established offices across the United States. Edgile addresses its client's most challenging security and compliance issues with a focus on Strategy Consulting, Identity and Access Management (IAM), and Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC). Edgile provides integrated solutions by combining Microsoft, SailPoint, and Dell technologies with Edgile’s GRC technologies and RSA’s Archer GRC platform. Edgile has deep expertise in many industry sectors, including healthcare, financial services, energy, education and more. Edgile specializes in IAM and GRC strategies and implementations.

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Digital Opportunity Knocking Lili Hall pushes her clients to shed traditional thinking about marketing and embrace the power and potential of digital media By Megan Bungeroth

Lili Hall KNOCK inc. Founder & CEO

As founder and CEO of KNOCK, a creative agency, Lili Hall wants to bring her advertising clients on a trip, but not one with a normal roadmap. There isn’t a start and end point for this journey; it’s the path of the modern-day consumer, and it’s not easy to define or predict. But Hall and her team at the hybrid agency, which offers brand positioning, design, content strategy, and social communication services, thrive in that uncertainty. “The one thing that we need to communicate with our clients of all sizes, is that we don’t know where that consumer journey starts and stops,” Hall says. “That’s the biggest change that we see in the customer experience. Traditionally it was TV, radio, at home; now you’ve got local devices, desktop, all of it. That experience can start with anyone at any point.” People used to experience a brand in a linear way—perhaps they’d see a national television ad, then a billboard pointing them to the local mall, and finally to the store itself to make a purchase. Now consumers can interact in a number of ways, taking an active role in shaping the relationship by providing online reviews, talking directly to brands on social media, and getting location-based updates straight to their phones. Owning that experience, no matter where it begins, is the goal Hall sets for all of KNOCK’s clients. She founded KNOCK in 2001, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to offer a fresh, nimble perspective that large, established agencies might not be able to provide.

“Our roots are in design and in retail,” Hall says. “I didn’t want to compete with the big traditional agencies. The hybrid model is more common now, but fourteen years ago it was not.” Hall takes the agency’s specialty seriously—she requires that everyone on staff has some retail experience and is digitally-minded. The agency works with companies as big as Target—KNOCK has designed many of the retailer’s instore experiences, including the launch of the Lily Pulitzer for Target line, which saw a complete sell-out of merchandise within fifteen minutes—and Levi’s, for which KNOCK was hired to name, brand, and market a new line of jeans aimed at women called Revel. It also takes on smaller accounts, which Hall says helps set KNOCK apart and ensure both agility and a wealth of resources at its clients’ disposal. “We’re constantly curating and sharing with our clients big and small,” Hall says. “Because we have clients of all different sizes and budgets, we can share with our smaller clients the lessons we learn from working with our bigger clients, and vice versa.” For example, the agency recently invested in some software and hardware it wanted to test out with smaller clients, before determining if they could scale for bigger ones. KNOCK’s developers created a custom iBeacon—a device that will trigger an offer to download an app on a smartphone when a person enters a physical space—that KNOCK tested at an open house in its offices. More and more retail stores are using iBeacon tools to offer promotions, get customers to move to different areas of a store, change promotions Sync / 31


Even though KNOCK is a creative agency, CEO Lili Hall insists that all of her staff have retail experience in order to relate to the company’s many retail clients.

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“We’re not trying to make [our clients] do something because it’s the latest and greatest technology; it has to work for their business, it has to work for their budget.” throughout the day, or update customers on new sales or limited stock alerts. KNOCK offers this kind of expert knowledge of the latest technology, but the company also understands the importance of more traditional consumer experiences, too, like in-store branding. Halls says that KNOCK is always faced with the challenge of convincing tech-focused clients that physical retail experience is just as important as a great, well-designed mobile app; on the flip side, brick-and-mortar-based companies might need nudging to understand that customer service doesn’t stop once customers leave a store, and that a positive online environment is crucial to success. “We’re able to have those conversations because there is a lot of trust built with our clients,” Hall says. “We’re not trying to make them do something because it’s the latest and greatest technology; it has to work for their business, it has to work for their budget.” That balancing act is built into the history of the agency. KNOCK started with two clients—a startup and a Fortune 500 company. As they continue partnering with both new and established brands, Hall says her staff is always working to understand their clients’ markets and target audiences, and to create custom strategies to tackle those areas that could otherwise go overlooked. When working with smaller or mid-size companies, KNOCK may run an entire brand campaign, from concept to advertising to package and in-store design, as well as custom mobile and social media experiences. With larger companies, the challenge is getting all the departments on board with a particular strategy, and working within parameters already set. KNOCK may be called in to help manage a single aspect of a brand campaign, like an in-store experience or a global packaging system. By leveraging state-ofthe-art technology, they help create intuitive experiences and efficiencies that offer measurable results. KNOCK’s clients rely on both the big-picture outlook and the attention to detail the firm brings to all of their initiatives. “We’ve been involved in creating naming conventions, [creating a] digital asset management system, setting up an FTP that’s secure,” Hall says. “We’ve been

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER Lili Hall prides herself, and her company, on being open to new ideas—a mantra that many CEOs adopt, but only the best know how to put into practice. Here are a few ways that Hall and the KNOCK team make sure they’re always learning. They’ve built a culture of asking for help. “We don’t have a lot of turnover, because we’re really taking care of our staff and checking in with them and making sure they’re okay,” Halls says. If staff members don’t feel supported and encouraged to reach out for assistance, they’ll stagnate. “We see that when we hire people with more experience but who haven’t been in an environment where they’ve been able to ask for help. I’m constantly asking for help, so I use myself as an example.” They stay up-to-the-minute on news and trends from around the world. At KNOCK, part of everyone’s job is to keep informed, and share that information with the rest of the team. “We are all trend curators, and together we function almost like a newswire,” Hall says. “We’re gathering all this content and twice a day sending out reports, which could be related to something we’re working on or not.” The staff gets newsworthy details related to fashion, film, pop culture, food, digital innovation— anything that one member of the team finds inspiring or worthwhile. Hall also travels frequently to conferences around the country and the globe, bringing back nuggets of information and new sources of inspiration for her team. They hire people who want to know more about the business, and the world. “The people that we hire are by nature curious,” Hall says. “We don’t have to have all the answers; we can get people in to help us figure out how it works.” KNOCK also employs a flat management structure, which is one of the ways the staff can learn from one another. “It’s great to have all those different lenses,” says Hall. “We do a lot of regrouping—here’s what I’m seeing and hearing from my lens, here’s what you’re concerned about, etc. I love those kinds of meetings because they’re so productive.” They learn from real life. Hall is always thinking about how to better serve her clients and has taken vital lessons from her personal experiences as a regular shopper. She recalls taking her daughter to a retail store and asking a sales associate for a certain size in a skirt. “The only skirt [in my daughter’s size] was on the mannequin, and they wouldn’t take it off,” Hall says. “No one should treat their customers this way.” It was an important reminder, she says, that no matter how slick a company’s website or advertising, if they don’t follow up with a great in-store experience, they’ll lose customers.

responsible for hiring photographers and negotiating their rights, usage fees, streamlining all that. We’ve got a whole checklist. It’s just being really proactive.” Hall says her team excels at anticipating what clients need, even if that need is a piece of yet-untested technology, or a new niche they haven’t explored in retail innovations. “We’re always looking a few steps ahead of where the client is looking,” Hall says. “We feel it’s our responsibility, having these conversations.” Sync / 33

WE THINK WITH IN VE NTION. WE MAK E WITH INTE NTION. WE PARTN E R WITH PAS S ION. K N O C K of fe r s strate g y an d creative that e levate s con sum e r exp e rie nce s , prov iding pre cision an d purp o s e to forge de e p, la sting conne c tion s . In shor t , we do exce ptional work by de sign . C onne c t with u s at K N O C K in c .c o m

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LEAD Empower Your Peers

Sync / 37


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& Crafts

IT Smarts CIO Paul Karras optimizes leadership to keep Wilton Brands at the top of the crafts sector By Taryn Barynes | Photos by Caleb Fox

Paul Karras Wilton Brands SVP & CIO

Arts and crafts is a tactile activity; the digital world may not readily spring to mind in the same thought with yarn and gluesticks. Wilton Brands, the parent company of popular lines like Martha Stewart Crafts, is changing that perception. With the evolution of technology capabilities, buyers have countless digital channel options to research and purchase goods online—prompting companies to adapt in even the most analog of industries. As the senior vice president and CIO of Wilton, Paul Karras keeps the advancement of the company’s technology foundation at the forefront of its strategy. Drawing from his twenty-eight-year career, Karras has a particular philosophy on how technology comes into play with the success of Wilton. “The focus of our efforts aims to reinvent the high-value end-user experience, enable business capabilities to extend and expand our business, and transform organizational decisions through enhanced and relevant insights,” Karras says. “It has to make strategic sense for the organization, it has to make investment sense, and it has to provide full alignment to the company’s strategic imperatives.” Established eighty-six years ago, the brand is now strategically leveraging social media and has amassed about two million followers across multiple social media platforms. “In everything we do, we seek to provide inspiration, education, and the tools in order for our conSync / 39







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Number of students a year at The Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionary Art

Top 1% Ranking of the Wilton Cake Ideas & More app in Food & Drink on iTunes

941.951.6015 FL PI A2900240


Number of copies sold by 1966 of The Homemaker’s Pictorial Encyclopedia of Modern Cake Decorating, written by founder Norman Milton


Number of Pinterest followers for Wilton Cake Decorating

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sumers to creatively express themselves and celebrate life’s events,” Karras says. The arts and crafts company has a fully optimized digital presence, ranging from online cake-decorating tutorials to online shopping, Wilton has developed a brand with an engaged and loyal consumer base. Achieving these results required dynamic leadership capabilities—which is a strong component of Karras’s core principles. “It’s my responsibility to nurture the process of influencing people within Wilton to do two things,” Karras says. “First is to have a solid technology foundation for us to be able to build upon. The second, which is outside of tech, is looking at the capabilities and methods that are Issue 005


Enterprise & Supply Chain Solutions

“I love to change energy because energy changes minds, which changes behavior—ultimately, changing results.”

needed to enable the organization to achieve its longrange goals.” Karras credits his first post-college job as a programmer at Arthur Andersen with laying the groundwork that shaped his core leadership ideas. He was able to develop his thought leadership skills—unrestricted by technology—through his experience with financial services, telecommunications, and consumer products industries. “As I progressed through my career, my actions centered on driving results,” Karras says. “Setting strategy, building networks and professional relationships, as well as the ability to continuously learn and teach, basically shaped my brand and leadership. It goes back to the choices I was forced to take and what I learned from them.” With these choices came both success and failure—the latter of which Paul encourages other leaders to embrace. “The leadership brand that I have is mainly reflective of learning from my failure—and I continue learning.” While technology is a major component to an organization’s success, Karras advises leaders to not forget about the most important aspect—their people. “People are everything,” he says. “As leaders, we must effectively set employees up for success.” To do this, Karras believes that it is important to hire the right people, manage them effectively, develop them, and engage them in maximizing their potential. “I want to instill the belief that everyone can make a difference. I love to change energy because energy changes minds, which changes behavior—ultimately, changing results.” Karras encourages leaders to think about the bigger picture: What is impacting the company as a whole and not just in IT? “I want our brand to be able to adapt to market trends and opportunities—driving change not just within IT, but to move faster as a company.”

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One With the People Stefano Concina is confident that his team at ESI understands the “what,” so he never needs to tell them the “how” By Keith Loria

Stefano Concina Electro Scientific Industries Chief Technical Officer

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Some people are natural born leaders; others have leadership thrust upon them. For Stefano Concina, chief technical officer at Electro Scientific Industries (ESI), the latter holds true. “I was a software engineer in a group and we were all equals, and like most engineers, that’s the way I liked it,” he says. “We were growing fast and were told someone needed to be coordinator for the group, and we all looked around with our eyes averted until I finally said I would do it for a week. Then that became a month, and another, and before I knew it, I became software manager.” Concina did such a great job that his boss at the time wanted him to venture out to other parts of the business, and he began to manage two mechanical engineers. “For six months, I wasn’t much help, but I learned a lot,” he says. “After that, I was able to contribute. I have a generalist background, so I was able to understand what they were trying to do—I just didn’t know the tools they had. Pretty quickly I became in charge of the whole engineering department.” Over the years, Concina’s leadership style has evolved, although he doesn’t feel he was ever a traditional supervisor, spelling things out for people or bossing them around in extreme detail about the way things needed to be done. “I’m incapable of managing that way,” Concina says. “I respect people who can actually do this, but I prefer managing adults and people who are confident in their craft. I don’t tell people how, I tell them what I want them to do. This approach works well in an R&D type of environment because the maturity level of the group is high.” Concina lets his managers set the detailed goals for their respective teams according to the needs of the company. Then he provides coaching and executive spon-

sorship to remove obstacles and ensure their success. “Sometimes I even get to provide technical solutions, but it is now a rare treat,” he says. Concina joined ESI in December 2010 and is now responsible for central R&D and engineering, as well as the internal laser business. The twenty-five-year tech vet previously spent more than fifteen years at KLA-Tencor, a semiconductor capital equipment company, as general manager of its Electron-Beam metrology and inspection department and as a managing director of its investment arm, KT-Venture Group. Now, in addition to his role as chief technical officer, Concina is general manager of a business under the ESI umbrella. This is a completely different interaction model with the staff—one that operates on a much shorter time scale. “I’m a big believer in computer simulations as adjuncts to experimentation. We are working on laser-material interaction simulations, and these are long multiyear programs,” Concina says. “It’s comforting to look at the technology part, but on the business side you have to deal with a lot of different personalities where oftentimes emotions take precedence over logic—especially when dealing with customers, sales reps, sales people, etc.” With a team of fifty-six under his purview, Concina has a relaxed attitude when it comes to being the man in charge. He considers himself part of the team and gives his managers a fairly long leash. “I’ll hold a staff meeting once a week and will do a daily conference call with the general manager who runs the laser business in France,” he says. “The team is in various time zones—France, Canada, Portland, Oregon—which can be a challenge. The emphasis is always on how to solve the problems that we are facing.” Issue 005


STEFANO CONCINA’S GUIDING PRINCIPLES Offer competitive differentiation. Concina always asks the same question: What is our difference? “There are other larger companies that can outcompete us on many fronts, especially on the easy stuff,” he says. “For us to win, we need to have something unique that comes from solving difficult problems. My staff knows that when they say something is hard, I say ‘Great—let’s go do it.’” Embrace differences. Concina has a diverse staff. “We have a very international group in Portland, Oregon, a group of French Canadians in Montreal and a group in France,” he says. “More than half the people have advanced degrees with very different backgrounds and experiences. By being French in France and Quebecois in Canada, we are able to leverage collaborative R&D efforts in their respective countries.” Just listen. Concina listens a lot. “Maybe in an obnoxious and very active way,” he says, “but I do hear what people say. I’m known for having heated discussions with people. I don’t have to agree with everything, but I want to make sure all the issues are put on the table so that we can make the best possible decision.” Coach, don’t do. “I don’t want to do the work for the team, but I nudge them in the right direction,” Concina says. He ensures his team members work together, helping them discover the essence of the obstacles so they solve the problem themselves.

He’s found that workers in France and those in the United States have different styles that don’t necessarily mesh. For example, email battles often rage on for days, a result of discrepancies in time zones and approaches to business problems. Those in France, for instance, do a lot more talking—a solution Concina prefers. “I don’t appreciate when people answer emails instead of solving the problem. There’s a lot of back and forth that could be solved by a single phone call,” he says. “People are rougher in email than they are in person or on the phone. I may let it go for a little but eventually, if I see it’s getting out of hand, I’ll step in and solve the problem with a call.” Concina is used to navigating cross-cultural communication. Italian-born and French-educated, he first came to the United States in 1982 to finish his studies at Caltech and Stanford, and he’s traveled the world with stops in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Australia and France. “This helped me be adaptable, make friends quickly, and figure out what’s important,” he says—all traits that have helped define his leadership style. “I try hard to put myself in the other person’s shoes, to understand what people’s motivations are, and to listen to them.”

“I don’t appreciate when people answer emails instead of solving the problem. There’s a lot of back and forth that could be solved by a single phone call.” Sync / 43

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Issue 005


Cassandra Yates answers

How do we find and nurture fresh talent in tech? Interview with Zach Baliva | Photo by Caleb Fox

Cassandra Yates leads a small but mighty team. As VivaKi’s chief talent officer, Yates works to meet the talent requirements of a company with 150 employees state-side and another 80 outside of the United States. VivaKi was established by global marketing and communications firm Publicis Groupe in 2008 to propel the digital transformation and expertise of Publicis. Today, the agency exists to help scale paid media, ad tech, and data power to accelerate Publicis’s client growth. Yates recruits top tech talent to accomplish these goals. In a highly specialized and fast-moving ad-tech industry, the talent pool is small and the stakes are high. What works? What doesn’t? And how does Yates ensure VivaKi has the talent it needs to compete? Sync sat down with her to find out.

You’ve been with the company through many transitions, changes, and acquisitions. What’s most challenging about that? Cassandra Yates: You have to stay close to the business and know where it’s going so you can help find, onboard, and develop the right people. It requires a lot of trust and communication. We’re asking our people to work closely with agency teams because we want to drive collaboration and accelerate growth for all of our clients. What’s new out there? What’s changed in the last few years when it comes to recruiting top talent in tech? Yates: It’s no longer just about people who have the technical knowledge and skills, who are always at a premium; we now have to find people who understand culture and who learn how to inspire and lead. It’s an interesting blend on the tech side of things because technical folks are often very black and white and not touchy-feely, front-of-the-room types. We need talent that can attract talent. How do you find that talent? What works? Yates: It’s tough. Anyone we hire, at any level, won’t fit our job description exactly, and we just have to embrace that. You have a wish list, and things that are nice to have, but you don’t find a person that checks all the boxes all the time. If we waited for the perfect candidate, we’d never fill a job. So we look at what skills they have and how we can develop them in the future. I think that’s what makes it work—the realization that although they might not have all the things we want on day one, we can spot people who are teachable. We can spot people who we can develop after we hire them.

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“It’s no longer just about people who have the technical knowledge and skills, which are always at a premium; we now have to find people who understand culture and who learn how to inspire and lead.”

You’re focusing on people with cross-channel skills. Why? Yates: Until recently, the industry was very siloed with one person working on social and another on video or mobile—but we need to move away from this approach because media isn’t consumed in a silo. For us to make meaningful connections with people, we know we need to be more channel agnostic. So we’re looking for people who have skills across all disciplines. Again, we’re looking for the best candidates and then also building the training programs we need to end up with the right talent that matches our culture and our vision. What’s it like for you to provide these services in a larger group of agencies? Yates: It’s great to be part of something bigger because I’m connected to other global HR leads. We’re part of a holding company, so in some regards, we’re set up to compete for talent, but we work together to share ideas and best practices. I get to be more strategic. How do you leverage technology in your own position? Yates: There are so many ways because of our global make-up. We have to let our people around the world collaborate, and we want people to feel that they’re part of a larger organization and not just the five or hundred people they might see every day. So we’ve created programs to let our people connect, interact, and share knowledge. One platform uses profiles—showing our info and faces as well as work content—so we feel like we actually get to know each other despite distance. We do all-hands meetings and webinars and various other info-sharing initiatives to ensure regular connections.

Guest Editor

With today’s fast evolving digital environment, finding talent you can develop for the future and creating effective global communication and collaboration frameworks are key for building a successful team. • How do you identify and grow your next generation of IT leaders? • What are the disciplines you look for in IT talent to better position your team for the future?

What’s next? Yates: We plan to keep moving forward to keep pace with the larger group, and we’ll stay close to them so we can really facilitate targeted growth across the board. Keeping on top of trends will help us stay on top of the talent game. It’s also important to keep our talent programs fresh and reflective of cultural trends and new tech and ways of communicating. If we can continue to establish the right programs to keep people engaged, it will helps us build a new set of experts who will drive the company moving forward. 46 / Sync

Cassandra Yates VivaKi Chief Talent Officer Issue 005

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Issue 005


Top Gun of Tech Jamie Trujillo is taking defense contractor Doss Aviation to new heights by injecting IT into all business concerns Interview with Peter Fabris

Shortly after venture capital firm J.F. Lehman & Company purchased Doss Aviation Inc. in 2011, top management set out to remake IT. Prior to the transaction, IT at the defense contractor was a run-of-the-mill support function dispersed throughout the company’s twenty-plus locations. It was viewed internally as a cost center with little strategic impact. For the company to maintain a strong competitive posture, the owners and management knew that had to change.

Doss, which provides flight training, aircraft maintenance, aviation logistics, and fuel-management services for the US military, wanted technology to morph into a unit that would contribute more to strategic goals. IT would be tasked to work closely with internal departments to make operations more efficient and to raise the quality of key functions, such as preparing proposals. The new style of IT would need a leader who could consolidate the department’s operations and work with business groups to better align technology with business strategy. Jamie Trujillo, then IT Manager with Doss Aviation’s initial flight-training division based in Pueblo, Colorado, was the choice to take the helm. Trujillo was appointed director of IT, and immediately set out to reorganize the department. Trujillo consolidated IT into a centralized unit based at the company’s Colorado Springs headquarters. His department, consisting of five IT professionals and one contractor, now serves the entire organization’s IT needs from headquarters, using tools to diagnose and remedy problems remotely. Sync spoke with Trujillo about the challenges he now faces, including implementing a new Sharepoint document-sharing and communications system, addressing network standardization, and complying with tough federal government IT security requirements.

Jamie Trujillo Doss Aviation Inc. Director of IT

Can you describe the IT philosophy at Doss? Jamie Trujillo: We’re always asking, how can we support business development? How can we use existing technology to win defense contracts? Defense contracting is an extremely competitive industry and it’s up to every division to determine how to best press forward

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Number of aviation students trained yearly at Doss Aviation through the Air Force’s Initial Flight Training program


Years Doss Aviation has been in business

185K Number of aircraft refueling efforts per year


Types of aircraft Doss Aviation is experienced in maintaining

and win contracts. IT’s mission is to support the business and support revenue generation. How are you better aligning IT with business needs? Trujillo: It starts with open communication between myself and the other division chiefs—operations, business development, flight training, human resources, finance, etc. I instituted regular meetings with them to determine what’s working, what’s not working, what we can do better, and what needs to be scrapped. This helps us in IT to determine how we can use what we have better and what we need to procure to help business units out. I do not force IT products on them. I let them tell me what they need, and I suggest products that they need. Then I review that with them and say, “Here’s the end result of what you asked for. Does this meet your needs?” How will your implementation of Sharepoint boost strategic goals? Trujillo: Sharepoint is now the company’s new intranet and extranet. It’s available internally at the corporate office for larger contracts and is also available on other contracts throughout the company. The goal was to have a single, unified collaboration platform. It allowed us to take all of our shared drives, email, and workflow-processing tasks and combine them into a single portal. It’s still growing and evolving. The big draw for us is that our third-party CRM tool and our third-party ERP tool will both report into Sharepoint and provide a unified dashboard for users who need that information—including our executive team. We’re positioning our Sharepoint to become the central hub for all company activities, including proposal generation, operational deployment, operational readiness—every unit you can think of from a business standpoint. How much of an improvement does this initiative provide? Trujillo: Previously, we used shared drives, email, and phone conversations. There was no document trail. There was no way to control different proposals or contract submissions. There was no standardization between our sites, or between us and the federal government. The old legacy intranet, trying to attach multiple files through attachments—where you get size restrictions—none of that was helping operational efficiency.

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So we said, “Let’s get this into the Web 2.0 world— let’s make this a social-driven site and let’s allow people to pull the documents they need when they need them and synchronize them back to the workspace.” We recently completed our first major proposal delivered through Sharepoint. We got great reviews on that. People said they loved the version control and checkout features. We don’t have multiple versions hanging around shared drives any more. That is critical for us. What other challenges are most pressing right now? Trujillo: Network standardization is a big deal for each of our contracts. We handle a lot of information deemed FOUO (For Official Use Only). That documentation needs to be protected in different ways. Some contracts have more of that sensitive information and some contracts don’t have any. We’re struggling with how to make our networks fully interoperate with each other and still maintain what is required from a security standpoint. Some contracts say you’ve got to protect information for five years, others say you’ve got to hold it for ten, and some may say you’ve got to hold it in perpetuity. As we build our consolidated infrastructure, whether it’s through Sharepoint or connecting sites together, we have to make sure that we maintain the security protocol that the contract has called for. Every contract is different. Some are very complicated; some are very simple. It’s an issue that we haven’t solved yet. We’re working very hard on that one. What solutions are you considering? Trujillo: We’re working to have a few pilot migrations to the cloud with some accounts. We’re looking at using Office 365. If we can standardize the email system and standardize the way people access the email system and the information that goes over the email system, that’s going to be a big start for us. We still operate heavily with on-premises networks. The decision to go with Office 365 has not been made yet, though. We’re not sure yet if we’re going to see the operational ROI that we want. If the numbers come back the way I hope they will, we’d like to have the business go to the cloud by Q3 of 2016. That’s going to eliminate different versions of different software packages at different sites. It will eliminate the need for one-touch controls for encrypted emails. It will all be handled at a central location. Issue 005

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Share your ideas in the pages of Sync. Visit

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to the Cloud Jumping from

the Mainframe Lonne Jaffe transformed legacy company Syncsort from the Google of the ‘70s and ‘80s to a tech disrupter in the age of open source and big data As told to Jeff Silver

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Issue 005

Lonne Jaffe Syncsort CEO


When Syncsort was founded in 1968, it quickly became one of the leading players in the mainframe world, providing software that streamlined sorting, conserved resources, and scaled to meet demand. Syncsort’s industrial-grade software powered applications that fundamentally transformed the established ways of doing business. I was brought in as CEO in 2013 to accelerate the growth of the company, both organically and through acquisition. The goal was to leverage our existing resources to create sustainably high-value offerings for the current technology environment. We needed once again to become one of the disrupters, not the disrupted. I was fortunate that Syncsort already had a global presence, with customers in eighty-five countries and profits that could be used to both develop new products and acquire high-value technology companies. However, our go-to-market model had to be upgraded so that our products could be downloaded over the Internet and consumed via the cloud. This transition also required divesting approximately one-third of the company that was no longer part of the core of our “Big Iron to Big Data” strategy. We then reorganized the company into three business units, each of which was designed to be as nimble and flexible as any startup: Big Data, which focuses on our Hadoop solutions; Mainframe, which includes data-transformation software and our Ironstream product; and Sort, which carries on our legacy as the global market leader for sorting software. In turn, each group follows an investment strategy centered on three clearly defined horizons to help guide business development. The first targets our existing businesses and ensures we maintain our leadership positions. The second horizon focuses on near adjacencies, segments we aren’t participating in today but where we have brand permission to play. These investments need to be in growing, attractive markets in which our go-tomarket and talent create a natural fit. The final area is inventions. We have a long track record of insightful creativity at Syncsort, and we think about these third-horizon investments as forming a kind of innovation colony, similar to an internal incubator or venture-capital firm. One challenge many legacy technology vendors face is figuring out the best way to participate in a new marketplace in which innovations are compressing prices and making existing products obsolete. It’s an especially difficult problem when startups are using open source technology to do a better job at what their product does for one-hundredth of the price. For example, if you sell expensive storage, how can you compete with vendors selling $600 hard drives that 54 / Sync

have the capacity to hold all the music that’s ever been created in the world? It’s not surprising that these vendors want to participate in new exciting growth areas, but it’s hard for them to invest with conviction if a new business segment accelerates revenue and profit declines in their much larger existing businesses. Syncsort, however, has been able to capitalize on the indecision that this classic innovator’s dilemma creates. We recognized that while much of Silicon Valley pays little attention to mainframes, 80 percent of corporate data originates from or resides on them. They are the system of record for huge numbers of high-volume transactional businesses like ATM networks, credit card processing infrastructure, and airline reservation systems around the world. These systems are critically important and need to be tightly integrated with the fastest growing big data environments, like Apache Hadoop, for advanced analytics. And this presented

“While much of Silicon Valley pays little attention to mainframes, 80 percent of corporate data originates from or resides on them.”

a tremendous market opportunity for us to develop products that bridge the old and the new. The massive data processing capabilities of platforms like Hadoop, the increasing prevalence of big data technology, and the flexibility of open-source applications combined to create a perfect storm that has given birth to some of today’s most innovative companies. Fast growing vendors like Cloudera, Hortonworks, and MapR have been upending existing markets by providing commercial support for Hadoop and related open-source data platforms. Partnering with these vendors, we created DMX-h, our native Hadoop-based solution that allows customers to vacuum up data and workloads from legacy systems and run them directly on Hadoop. Similarly, creative, disruptive companies like Splunk are using their powerful big-data technology to secure, monitor, and manage their enterprise environments. However, one of Splunk’s challenges was that they were unable to access much of the mainframe data Issue 005


needed for advanced cybersecurity or application performance monitoring. To address this gap, we created Ironstream, which brings critical security and application log data from the mainframe into Splunk Enterprise and Splunk Cloud. In addition to partnerships, we have also looked for acquisitions to add high-quality talent and highly differentiated intellectual property to advance our ambitious technology strategy. After investigating opportunities for long-term growth potential, Syncsort acquired two European software companies: Circle Computer Group, which brought us talent that helped build Ironstream, and William Data Systems, which added additional networking and security capabilities to the Ironstream platform. Our products, partnerships and acquisitions are making customers’ technology platforms more secure, allowing them to do more advanced analytics and saving them millions of dollars in the process. In 2014, Syncsort was named to the Database Trends and Applications’ “100 Companies that matter most in big data” list, and Forbes referenced the company as one of the “Top 10 Big Data Pure-Plays.” What may be most gratifying to me personally, however, is that we’ve closed several very important deals with large health-care companies where our products will be used to enable advanced medical analytics to improve clinical outcomes. One of my former roles at IBM was leading healthcare software, so it was particularly exciting for me to see our positive impact move well beyond numbers in a database. We’re part of a transformation that’s using big data to facilitate meaningful improvements in people’s lives on a fundamental level. That gives us a new kind of legacy.

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Revolution CIO Brad Cowles, a founder of industrial distributor HD Supply’s technology team, shares what it takes to create, foster, and evolve a department that completes more than 200 projects a year

As told to Zach Baliva

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Issue 005


Brad Cowles HD Supply CIO

Sync / 57


When I took the job at HD Supply, then under Home Depot, I did it not to be part of a huge retailer, but to be part of its unique vision to defragment the industrial distribution market, much as they had done in retail DIY. I had decided to make the leap from mechanical engineering to IT, after ten years working for Michelin in the United States and France. We came to Atlanta, Georgia because we wanted to settle in a major American city with long-term career opportunities, and that’s what led me to accept the HD Supply position. In 2005, Home Depot was acquiring almost a company per month, and we were responsible for the IT-related diligence and integration—a real challenge considering Home Depot was also in the process of figuring out the business’s portfolio mix. Ultimately, we completed more than forty acquisitions, and early on, Home Depot’s IT became the foundation for our data centers, payroll, and other key platforms. Eighteen months later, however, things took an abrupt turn when Home Depot divested HD Supply. Suddenly, the HD Supply IT team had to make rapid decisions about how to build out an IT foundation for what was essentially a $13 billion startup. I became part of the IT leadership team that created the foundation of what is now the tech infrastructure behind HD Supply. We were fortunate because our largest acquisition, the $5 billion Hughes Supply Company, had an enterprise data center in Orlando, Florida, and a strong IT culture. Literally within hours of hearing the announcement about our divestiture, we decided Hughes’s data center would become the anchor upon which we would build. With the IT teams from Hughes, our acquisitions, and many key leaders hired from big companies, we built the new infrastructure, HR, and many other core platforms in a very short time. Next, the collapse of the housing market pulled us into a period of unbelievable economic difficulty. After 2006, we were close to $13 billion in annual revenue. Over the next three years, annual revenue was approximately $6 billion. It was a hard market for residential, commercial, and municipal construction. To be successful, HD Supply leadership executed a focused plan to adjust to the marketplace realities and throughout the down cycle focused on strategic growth initiatives and customer-facing process improvements. From an IT standpoint, we invested heavily but 58 / Sync

prudently, developing a set of business capabilities in IT that were cost effective and scalable. We started with twenty-three data centers, and between 2007 and 2011 we exited twenty-one of those centers while investing in the two we operate today. We worked hard to innovate through the latest in virtualization of servers and storage and telephony capabilities, like SIP trunking, to radically reduce the cost of operations. We rationalized our application portfolio, going from thirty-five ERPs to six that now run the business, and a current divestiture will actually reduce that by two more. All the businesses we acquired were not built for the scale we needed to grow. Our HD Supply Facilities Maintenance business, with more than $2.3 billion in annual revenue, did not have a sufficient ERP platform to grow at the pace of the business’s growth. We put SAP into that business, taking our call centers live in 2009, and today that business thrives on SAP. It’s IT-intensive, servicing over 30,000 orders per day from more than forty distribution centers across the United States and Canada. Half the order volume now originates in e-commerce channels. Had we not invested in SAP when we did, we do not believe we could have achieved our current—let alone our projected—scale. Similarly, in our commercial construction business, we saw early that our ambition to grow would put us beyond the capabilities of the legacy ERP, so we moved to Oracle over a two-year period. Having learned from many implementations, the team focused on what we call the “path to value,” or the business outcomes, and not on the tech deliverables. The implementation was very successful and gave us a framework for future campaigns. All of this taught me to focus from beginning to end on the desired business outcomes, not just on the technology milestones. Be realistic up front—this is not a job for IT alone, it requires intense business partnership. In implementations, you have to grade yourself on more than deploying a system. Don’t stop until you reach meaningful success tied to business objectives. We have a track record of executing around 200 Issue 005


projects a year, but I think we’re actually doing too many projects. Part of my philosophy as the CIO is we need to starve the good ones so we can feed the great ones. Once we pick the winners with the highest returns and lowest risks, we then break the large problems into smaller bites that can be solved and owned by a small team. I believe small teams can make a big difference. They can fail fast, recover, and learn with limited risk. They can be very agile and interactive with the customer. When you empower young up-and-comers to own a project, you create a culture of better accountability and understanding compared to an environment where everyone is a small part of a huge team. We hire smart people and help them figure out how to produce great work without solely relying on our vendor partners to hand us a roadmap. We build our roadmaps from capabilities, not products, and then we create an environment where our teams can go after those capabilities in the most elegant way. We believe in open source and custom software to create or bridge packaged software to let us do what we need to do. Ten years after we started, the foundation is set, and now we can execute on the right high-return projects. We will continue to invest in all three of our major business units to extend our e-commerce capabilities. We integrate into the customer process and make it easier for them to do business with HD Supply. What IT does matters. HD Supply has differentiated itself in the market and doubled its stock price from our 2013 IPO. We’ve done that because we grow faster than our markets, and IT contributes to that growth because we offer new and improved sales channels, better integrations, and better customer service that helps us attract and retain customers. Data and predictive analytics show us where we can sell more to existing customers, and our efforts in information security keep the company safe. We know we have to deliver innovative solutions to further differentiate HD Supply, and we’re more ready than ever to do that.


Cowles highlights the changes that the business made in order to become an industry leader Then “The original business was a small part of an $80 billion retail operation where HD Supply was just a vision. We got to go in and become a large national brand that maintains a local touch, and that’s still the secret to our company today.” Now “We’ve struck the perfect balance between being a boots-onthe-ground company with local relationships and knowledge, and benefitting from the power of a strong, national brand with Fortune 500 resources and capabilities.”

OnX proudly recognizes

Brad Cowles CIO HD Supply “Brad has a thorough understanding of how technology drives business value and delivers a competitive edge. With Brad’s extensive IT knowledge, business experience and ability to inspire his team, you can be sure HD Supply will continue to succeed in bringing added value to their customers.” - Dana Mitchell Senior Sales Executive OnX and HD Supply partnership

Accelerate your success at

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The Bandleader Former Anaqua CEO Priya Iyer believes that serving as an effective, transformational tech exec is like leading a jazz band By Terri Williams

Priya Iyer Anaqua Former CEO

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Priya Iyer knows firsthand the value of learning from strong leaders. Thanks to the Innovation and Global Leadership program at the MIT Sloan School of Business, Iyer succesfully led intellectual-asset-management and SaaS-solutions company Anaqua for nearly a decade. She loved the program because it brought together a group of people with a tremendous amount of experience. “It’s a global team with senior leaders from around the world,” she says. “There are so many CEOs in that cohort and a constant stream of preeminent leaders on campus from innovative organizations such as Apple, GE, etc.” Because of its impressive lineup of faculty and experienced classmates, the program instilled an innovation and entrepreneurship mindset in Iyer. “I joined the leadership team of Anaqua directly after completing the program, and Anaqua shares the culture of teamwork, excellence, entrepreneurism, and innovation with the program.” As a result of her experience, Iyer now teaches in a leadership seminar in the program, host internships at the school, and coaches entrepreneurial groups. She tells her peers that they should think constantly about innovating. “Don’t wait for someone to give you a job description,” she says. “Think what you can do, what you can develop.” Iyer has applied this philosophy throughout her career, and especially at Anaqua, which she joined as COO in 2005. Anaqua began as an initiative through a collaboration of several IP leaders from Ford Motor Company and British American Tobacco. There was a need for large companies like this to manage the full intellectual-property lifecycle in a way that was efficient, holistic, reliable, and cost-effective. Anaqua was developed as a web-based software package that managed all forms of IP such as trademarks, patents, contracts, and

designs, and was launched as a private company in 2004. Iyer explains that intellectual property and IT occupy a unique space. “We have seen the western world move from an agricultural to an industrial economy, from there to a services economy, and now we are in an intellectual economy,” Iyer says. “During this time there has been a trend to outsource manufacturing and to outsource services. What remains is our ideas and innovativeness—these are our core assets.” For Iyer, it’s vital for people and companies to protect their innovation. And while she is no longer at the company, Anaqua embodies the idea she established as its COO: companies deserve and need their ideas protected. “Eighty percent of a company’s valuation is tied up in their intangible assets,” Iyer says. “Anaqua helps people spur their innovation and figure out which of those are most important to them.” The company serves a cross-functional role. In addition to helping clients discover and fine tune ways to create value and increase revenue, it also helps them strategize, innovate, and then protect those ideas. Iyer admits that leadership in a technology-focused company is different from leadership in other types of industries. “Technology is really changing the world, and today it is not just an isolated field,” she says. “It is deeply embedded into every industry: health care, manufacturing, pharma, consumer packaged goods—literally any area you go into.” Technology leaders have to be agile and think outside of the box, envisioning what will be required tomorrow to develop it today. “It’s about pushing this level of innovation into every area and every industry,” Iyer says. “An innovative team is often versatile and diverse.” As a result, it’s difficult to have a rigid hierarchy when running a tech company. “It’s like music: a symphony orchestra has a conductor standing in front. There are many musicians, but Issue 005


each has a specific part and the conductor is the central point of control. The performance is highly structured.” But a tech team can be likened to a jazz band. “They’re listening to each other and innovating on the spot, and there are many things happening on that floor, often for the first time,” she says. “It is a constant state of innovation, each musician feeding off of the others.” While she can see the artistry, Iyer also grasps the technical side. In addition to an MBA from Sloan, she has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science and engineering. “My engineering background is great for tackling hard, complex problems in today’s business world,” Iyer says. “Figuring out the data you need, analyzing it, and making decisions and explaining those decisions to others is a nicely-structured process.” Iyer believes her business degree is also vital. “It gives you that cross functional view across finance, sales, and marketing combined with macroeconomics—what’s happening in global markets—and helps you clearly explain strategy and why and how it is different,” she says.

“An innovative team is often versatile and diverse; it’s like music.”

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Iyer views the task of a leader within a company as charting a path in open waters and enabling the team to smoothly travel through it, improving everything along the way. “You have to lead your organization not in isolation but in the ecosystem in which you play,” Iyer says. “You have to always be ambidextrous—thinking about the details of your internal organization but always paying attention to the changing external environment. Even when a company has a great team that is innovative and empowered, you need to make sure that everyone is rowing in the same direction and with the wind. That is the critical role of the leader.”

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Photo by Brian C. Jackson


Alan Farnsworth Vnomics CEO

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Alan Farnsworth answers

Why a former CIO makes for a better CEO Interview with Julie Schaeffer

When Alan Farnsworth became the CEO of fleet-management firm Vnomics in 2014, he jumped from a wholly different industy. His previous position was as the CIO of global eye-health company Bausch + Lomb. But that experience, in a different role for a different product, gave him a unique perspective on both corporate and technology leadership. “I think sometimes being relatively unburdened by a long period in an industry is helpful,” Farnsworth says. “You have a fresh set of eyes and ears—a perspective that lets you bust a myth or two here and there.” Here, Sync speaks with Farnsworth on what it takes to be a successful tech leader, learning from challenges, and the evolving industry of fleet management.

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Fleet-management software is an abstract concept to many. What’s the elevator pitch?


Alan Farnsworth: There’s so much information available due to sensors on vehicles today—packaging that and providing it to fleet owners once vehicles are outside their visibility creates real value. We provide actionable analytics—by which I mean tools, data, and measures—that allow our transportation fleet customers to better manage their business, particularly in areas of fuel, safety, and maintenance. Basically, we help our customers make better decisions to improve their business.

1) An onboard computer and display screen are affixed to a truck.

Got it—so it’s about connection? Farnsworth: Everywhere you look, more and more things are connected to the Internet, and therefore to each other, which spawned the term “Internet of Things.” But in the case of transportation fleet management, we’re talking about things that move, which presents a new dimension of challenge and opportunity. My TV and DVR are connected to the Internet but they don’t leave my family room, so if I want to know about them I can walk over and touch them. But once mobile assets leave the yard, a certain amount of operational blindness sets in. Connected technology can go a long way toward addressing that. At the most basic level, the fleet can know about trucks and drivers—where are they, what are they doing. Beyond that there’s the opportunity to learn about their condition and operation, and what can be done to get better performance. So you turn the lights on, so to speak.

2) The computer is connected to the vehicle data bus. Processed data is sent to Vnomics cloud services via cellular and Wi-Fi.

3) Drivers use the in-cab capabilities including “Hours of Service” compliance.

4) With the Vnomics System, audio signals are given to drivers to help them increase their performance and safety.

5) Data that has been sent to a database is paired with analytics tools to optimize fleet performance.

Farnsworth: Yes. We can inform the fleet owners, in real time in many cases, in terms of safety, fuel consumption, driver behavior, maintenance issues, compliance, etc.

ods and tools, especially within a software framework like ours, positions us uniquely to help our fleet customers deal with the massive amount of data available to them.

What underlying technology is used?

What do you think it will take to be successful?

Farnsworth: We provide an onboard computing device that’s affixed to the vehicle and connected to its data bus, where a lot of sensor information is collected. There’s also a display device, typically fixed but increasingly detachable or mobile, using obvious communications tools like cellular and Wi-Fi. We then amalgamate, process, and analyze the data using a variety of analytical tools.

Farnsworth: I have four pillars, and use the acronym FADA to illustrate them. F is for focus—being sure we’re consciously choosing to do the right things. A is for alignment—making sure all components of the organization are pointing in the right direction. D is for discipline—ruthlessly measuring and monitoring how our execution is going. And A is for attitude, which influences behavior, which influences results. There’s no room in this organization for negativity.

How do you see these technology changes affecting your industry? Farnsworth: A lot of widespread technology advancements, including better and cheaper data storage and more cost-effective data communications, help us. But the advent of increasingly sophisticated analytical meth64 / Sync

Could you provide some examples of your philosophies in action? Farnsworth: In the case of alignment, when I became associated with one company’s IT operation, I realized Issue 005

Vnomics saVed saia 7% in fuel costs in 1 year Vnomics and Intel turn effective IoT aptitude into smart ROI for Saia LTL Freight Vnomics and Intel collaborated to transform freight trucks into connected vehicles—with immediate bottom-line impact. It all started with Saia LTL Freight’s bold decision to convert 100% of its fleet into intelligent transport. Sensors, smart devices, and real-time analytics made it happen. Reap the benefits of a data-driven economy with Intel® technology powering Vnomics solutions. Copyright © 2015, Intel Corporation. All rights reserved. Intel, the Intel logo, the Intel. Experience What’s Inside logo, and Intel. Experience What’s Inside are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries. *Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.


Computing Solutions for Fleet Management & Telematics

“Being relatively unburdened by a long period in an industry is helpful. It lets you bust a myth or two.”

the IT organization wasn’t really measuring itself and prioritizing initiatives by the same things as the rest of the company. That was easy to fix, and once we did so, the performance of the organization improved to the point that our CEO said he thought it was the best IT organization he’d been around. How about discipline?

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Farnsworth: I remember a time when a particular group within my prior company had to dramatically improve customer satisfaction. The customer service team was good, but that wasn’t showing in results, so I started looking at what we were monitoring and measuring—most of which had to do with productivity. And that was getting in the way of customer satisfaction. If a customer service person’s performance is measured on how many calls he or she takes in a day, what will happen? We fixed that and customer satisfaction improved. Looking back at your career, what significant challenges stand out? Farnsworth: There was a dark period of time in my prior career when we had to take an important product off the market due to a formulation issue. My team was down in the dumps about it, so I brought out one of my favorite adages, which is E+R=O, meaning the event plus the reaction determines the outcome. Often you can’t influence the event, but you can influence your reaction. So I said to them, “No one wanted this to happen, but it did, and most of us will never experience this kind of market action again, so why don’t we make this the best product recall the industry has ever seen?” You could see the smiles come back to people’s faces. We held our market share and survived with our business intact. How did your job as CIO specifically prepare you to lead effectively as CEO? Farnsworth: I like to think I draw on all my past positions. But in the case of CIO, being a customer and user of software products—particularly software-as-a-service products—gives me a unique perceptive. I’ve been on both sides of the table. And certainly being a CIO gave me the vernacular; I could spell SaaS when I got here. Issue 005



How are you leveraging your workforce’s digital acumen outside of the IT department? Recent research by Gartner analysts confirm what many leading organizations already realize: all employees are digital employees. And when every employee is a digital employee, IT is everyone’s job. In order to remain leaders, IT departments mustn’t merely adapt—they should embrace employees’ increased digital abilities by becoming bimodal, creating two separate modes of delivery based on the traditional, risk-averse methods as well as one based on agility. Shadow IT—devices, software, or services outside the control of IT organizations—already account for 30 percent of IT spend, with projections trending upward. Taking this into account, the recommendation is for IT to move toward a more consultant-like partner role that no longer is the sole procurer of IT solutions.

Source: Gartner;

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Target the Middleman Scott Geng leads a team at Egenera that updates clients’ infrastructure so they can shift to cloud-based data management By Tina Vasquez

Scott Geng Egenera CTO & EVP

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Scott Geng still laughs about how he has a liberal arts degree—in computer science. In the 1980s, computer science clearly wasn’t what it is today; at the time, Geng’s alma mater, Boston University, was one of the few schools in the country offering a degree in the subject. It wasn’t part of any defined curriculum, so computer science got lumped in with liberal arts. The liberal arts designation hardly matters anymore, though his education and talent have served him well. Geng is now chief technology officer and executive vice president of engineering at Boxborough, Massachusetts’s Egenera, a cloud management and disaster recovery software company. An expert in managing and designing software for mission-critical environments, Geng has held senior positions at IBM and Hitachi Computer Products, where he was instrumental in the development of the operating system for the world’s then-fastest commercial supercomputer. At Egenera, Geng oversees product development, directs the mission, and manages the software-architecture team, giving him the unique ability to both focus on the big picture while also taking a hands-on approach to important, day-to-day tasks like working with clients who, for whatever reason, cannot jump into the cloud. Explained in its most rudimentary terms, cloud management is the act of storing and managing software remotely, on the server side, enabling customers to access data from anywhere in the world on any computer or mobile device. Cloud computing was embraced quickly for its ability to increase efficiency and reduce costs, but initially, businesses were slow to hop on board, either because of the initial cost of switching to a new data management technique or because of a simple fear of change. That no longer seems to be the case. According to a study by the consulting firm Emergent Research, the percentage of US small businesses using cloud com-

puting is expected to more than double by 2020, from 37 percent to nearly 80 percent. The most challenging thing about working in IT, Geng says, is the rate of change and how dramatically it’s accelerating, citing cloud computing as a prime example of how quickly technology—and its capabilities—are forcing organizations to evolve. “There were obviously major changes in the ten years between 1984 and 1994, but it’s nothing compared to the last ten years,” Geng says. “And cloud computing is the best example I can think of when it comes to a technology that has had a profound, dramatic impact, not just on my industry, but on business as a whole.” Companies like Amazon, Geng says, have been lowering the price of cloud services, decreasing their costs twenty-five times since 2006. The goal is to make the cloud attractive to those apprehensive to embrace it— and for most individual users and companies, it is now a matter of how to best adopt the cloud model into their IT architecture that stands as the final barrier. Because of this hesitancy, what’s emerging is a hybrid-cloud environment, enabling companies to leverage cloud services provided by companies like Amazon to put some projects in the public cloud, while day-today needs remain premise-specific. “This hybrid environment is offering a new way to develop processes, and it’s offering a solution to businesses who weren’t sure how to fit the cloud into their environment,” Geng says. “With this approach people are doing much more than sticking a toe in the water; they’re sticking their whole leg in the water. We’re definitely headed in a more hybrid direction.” This is why so much of Egenera’s products and new developments are focused on a hybrid-cloud service and specifically on the piece of the puzzle so many companies seem to be forgetting: the middleman. Issue 005


“Companies like Google and Amazon have all gone after the end user. We see a major hole in this approach, namely that those on the channel side are completely left out,” Geng says. “The cloud is changing the way people think of computing, and channel providers are being left with fewer options when it comes to the ability to move into the cloud-services market in a way that allows them to leverage those services.” Geng says that right now, channel providers only have two choices. The first is to utilize Amazon or Google’s services with minimal margin and effectively compete with those vendors in selling to the end-user—not an easy path to build a profitable business. The second, more challenging option is to create the framework and buy the software to offer their own cloud services, which is a lot to take on operationally, financially, and technologically.

Amazing things happen when people work together.

SCOTT GENG’S GUIDING PRINCIPLES You’ve got to be innovative. And that can mean leveraging or integrating existing technology. Pay attention to your customers. You have to understand their challenges and invest in solutions. Keep IT simple. When you’re building technology, you don’t want to complicate it for customers. You want to leverage the capabilities of technology, but make the design as simplistic as possible. Success is almost always in the engineering.

Harvard Pilgrim is proud to partner with innovative leaders like Scott Geng at Egenera.

Egenera’s answer is to target the middleman with the most efficient software and cloud services they need at the lowest possible cost. Geng says the most critical problem for channel providers is they don’t currently have a practical path to offer cloud services to their existing customer base—one that will allow them to control the margins they make and offer the value-added services and touch points their customers expect. Egenera entices channels by enabling them to pay as they use with no volume commitment. “We’ve almost always been a product-focused business,” Geng says. “We’re taking a new position and building out this new market. We’re a small company and for us to stay on top, we have to be creative and blaze our own path. We’re doing that with this new endeavor.”

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care is a not-for-profit health services company serving more than one million members in New England. Founded in 1969, Harvard Pilgrim has built its reputation on innovation and collaboration, with a goal of improving the quality and value of care, and enhancing overall member experience.

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EXPAND Move Ideas Into the World

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Issue 005


We Need To Talk

Telecom is ubiquitous, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better. Transit Broker’s Evan M. Gillman is shifting the industry’s reputation from the conglomerate to the agile facilitator. By Topher Bordeau

Photos by Caleb Fox

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When Evan Gillman apologizes for stepping away from a phone call with a hopeful prediction—“that should be the last interruption, unless disaster strikes”—he’s actually underselling the value of his work. When Superstorm Sandy and its subsequent disaster struck New York in 2012, Gillman’s company, Transit Broker LLC, leapt into action to ensure that crippled telecommunications systems wouldn’t mean interrupted business. The company’s response to the calamity underscores both the nature of its work and the evolution of telecom. Transit Broker exists to bring clarity to a confusing industry. “The impetus for the company is this: a business owner picks up the phone and wants to order the most basic of services, [but] it’s a nightmare because there are so many details and factors that drive pricing and configuration,” Gillman says. “It becomes very difficult to get someone on the phone who understands the business owner’s needs and how to configure service around those needs. We enable organizations to focus on their business; Transit Broker handles the telecom side.” But configuring services is just the start. One of the most important facets of Transit Broker’s mission involves keeping those services working through power outages, disasters, or other calamities. Disasters like Superstorm Sandy may make headlines, but networks face challenges everyday, and it’s Gillman’s job to configure services to keep businesses running even when networks go down. For example, one of Transit Broker’s longtime clients is a leading automotive parts manufacturer with plants in Detroit, Mexico, Asia, Europe, and numerous sites around the world. The manufacturer needs to keep its plants running, and Transit Broker partners with Level 3 Communications to ensure that happens. “We’ve built a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network that allows any-to-any connectivity,” says Gillman. “If there’s a natural disaster, power outage, or any disastrous scenario, all of the sites on this manufacturing network can talk to each other and survive if one of the nodes happens to have an outage.” The high-availability solution provides site-to-site connectivity, and Transit Broker has also deployed Level 3’s Voice Complete solution, a session-initiation-protocol (SIP) platform, to enable high availability for the voice network, too. “If the headquarters in Detroit loses connectivity, the platform instantly redirects calls to make the phones ring at any of the other worldwide offices, based on the configuration of the Voice Complete 74 / Sync

product plus the configuration of the MPLS network that the Voice Complete rides,” says Gillman. “The network that we’ve built for this organization has yielded the high-availability requirements that keep the business running.” Gillman points to this relationship with the manufacturer as just one way that his company can support crucial network operations, twenty-four seven. “We have essentially become an overlay to its internal IT department by providing project management and support for its telecommunications needs, allowing them to focus on business,” he says. Advances in technology and telecommunications have made product offerings far more intricate, increasing the demand for engagement with businesses from firms like Transit Broker. “Technologies such as SIP were in a nascent state until recently, and as the technology becomes far more prevalent, the enterprise is looking toward organizations such as ours to assist with deployment and implementation,” says Gillman. “End users are demanding newer, richer, and more robust technologies to support their businesses. The products we’re selling today are far more complicated than they were fifteen years ago because the market is demanding more advanced technologies.” Gillman stays on top of his industry’s evolution by helping shape it as a member of the board of the Technology Channel Association (TCA), which serves as the telecom industry’s first trade association in support of independent agents. It provides leadership to address industry challenges, delivers value-added programs like webinars, and provides a collective voice for agents. The TCA also runs a certification program, the Certified Telecommunciations Professional exam, to raise the standard for agents so that clients can trust their expertise, which is more important than ever. As more people utilize networks for increasingly complex and sensitive information, securing those networks and the information they carry is of paramount importance. Transit Broker has clients in health care, specifically in electronic health records, and Gillman has seen increased demand for SAS-70 and SSAE-16 compliant data centers, preventive security products like Level 3’s cloud- and premise-based firewall service, and DDoS mitigation services to protect from intrusions and hacking. A security breach to an enterprise Issue 005


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LEARNING FROM CRISIS MODE Gillman charts the path of telecom in the aftermath of disaster. “Superstorm Sandy was a wake-up call for a lot of organizations on the East Coast. No one was adequately prepared for what happened. Post-Sandy operational efficiencies involved finding new levels of redundancy. What we saw was a significant migration to disaster-recovery data-center sites, where many people sought geographically redundant data centers in other areas of the country. Putting data centers inland saw a significant push from entities moving to the middle of the country.

Evan M. Gillman Transit Broker LLC Principal

People also started deploying more VoIP/SIP technologies, because one of the advantages of VoIP or SIP is the inherent disaster recovery that the technology provides. The industry started deploying unified communications. Find- and followme technologies enable phones to ring wherever the end user is in the world, allowing access to phone systems anywhere.”

organization—regardless of the size—could be costly and problematic. But working with partners such as Level 3 Communications has enabled Transit Broker to offer a robust security product set.

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inside look

As PPL Corporation spun off its energy-supply business to form Talen Energy, Jim Schinski faced a daunting task as the newly appointed chief administrative officer. Here’s how he used that challenge to make IT work strategically for the business—even with a lean team and a reduced expense budget. By Julie Schaeffer

Jim Schinski Talen Energy SVP & Chief Administrative Officer

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IN THE PAST TWENTY YEARS, the power-generation business has seen a significant upheaval. The previous business model was entirely regulated; public utilities owned and operated all aspects of providing service, from the power plant to the meter attached to a customer’s home or business. In the nineties, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued orders that effectively opened the energy market to competition, enabling states to unbundle the generation, transmission, and distribution services. Starting in the late nineties, Pennsylvania-based PPL Corporation operated separate regulated utility and competitive energy supply businesses. Then, in 2014, PPL spun off its competitive energy supply business, and combined it with the generation business owned by private equity firm Riverstone Holdings to form Talen Energy. And with the launch of Talen, Jim Schinski went from leading IT at PPL to leading IT, HR, supply chain, and more at Talen. Launched in June 2015, Talen is now the fourth-largest power producer in the country with more than 15,000 megawatts of generating capacity in Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Montana. With the recently falling price of natural gas, stagnant electricity demand, and more stringent environmental regulations, the landscape of the competitive generation business has changed. “It’s truly a competitive market in electricity generation business in the markets where Talen Energy operates,” says Schinski. Starting in June 2014 until its launch, the organization performed an exhaustive review of its business processes, technologies, and costs. “The effort came to be known as the development of the Talen Operating Model,” Schinski says. “The process included questioning the need and efficacy of previous business processes and technologies with the knowledge that they would be insufficient to run the new company.” Those insights

were used to determine the size and skills needed in the new organization as well as the necessary technology portfolio. “The first priority after developing the operating model was hiring the right people,” Schinski says. “Because the business is so different from the previous PPL, it was important to attract people who find the challenge of starting a new company exhilarating and the need for change empowering.” In order to reach the goal of driving $200 million in annual run-rate synergies by 2018, one of the first Issue 005


things Schinski identified was whittling down the number of enterprise applications used by people around the company, which stood at roughly 500. Ultimately, through rationalization and consolidation, Talen will support approximately 160 applications—a third of what it previously maintained at PPL. With the reduction in applications came an even greater reduction in staff to support those applications. “At PPL we had an IT team of 350 employees, and at Talen Energy we now have 80,” says Schinski. Schinski is also moving to infrastructure and software-as-a-service models. “We will no longer have our own data center; instead we have signed a contract with Amazon for infrastructure to house our 160 applications,” Schinski says. “The other side of that coin is that we won’t bear the capital cost of infrastructure upgrades or the depreciation expenses.” Talen also subscribed to human resources and finance solution platform Workday, eliminating its previous heavily customized on-site solution. “As a company, one of our goals is to drive free cash flow, and in reviewing the business case for the ERP solution, the cost of utilizing our previous system was several million dollars higher over a five-year period,” Schinski says. “Utilizing a SaaS solution forces us into a regimented maintenance cycle because Workday performs upgrades twice a year, and we’re required to move with it, gaining additional functionality while someone else does most of the heavy lifting.” Luckily, Schinski isn’t without experience in this arena, having worked on many large projects, including building a $150 million data and operations center at PPL. He also spent five years as CIO of Midwest Independent System Operator, where he led the organization during a market launch in 2005 and an ancillary market launch in 2009. Schinski has learned to not underestimate the human dynamic. “The planning period from June 2014 to June 2015 was tumultuous for everyone,” he says. “We were deciding on the size of the organizations, making offers to employees, negotiating with vendors, and literally tearing apart a 100-year-old company. Many exciting opportunities are on the horizon for Talen Energy, and while the spin was difficult, we found a way to capitalize on the opportunity to start over with our IT systems and business processes. Ultimately, we will benefit from the change through reduced operating expenses and a more productive and engaged workforce.”

The global power and utilities industry is ever changing – developing in a world where energy efficiency, resource conservation, and savvier commercial, industrial, and residential consumers prevail. Deloitte understands the challenges you face because we’ve spent years working in this industry. We’re here to help you anticipate, plan for, and manage the dramatic swings that characterize your market. And when something happens, we’ve got the people, solutions, and resources to help you move forward with confidence. To learn more, visit us at:

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Transforming your IT systems and business processes can greatly improve your ability to successfully reposition your company for evolving business challenges. • Is your IT organization working as a strategic business advisor to identify the necessary technological innovation to help you meet your business goals? • How can we do something fundamentally different with less money?

Move forward. With confidence. No matter how complex your business questions, we have the capabilities and experience to deliver the answers you need to move forward. As the world’s largest consulting firm, we can help you take decisive action and achieve sustainable results.

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Recruitment Goes Viral How Lindsay Stanton harnesses the power of online video and analytics to match the right candidates with employers By Amy Michelle Smith | Photo by Caleb Fox

DESPITE EMBRACING THE NEW efficiencies of the digital age, recruitment agencies have generally shied away from the use of video content in their online job-posting methods. But today, video content has become a force that dominates virtually everything else online—including becoming the communication method of choice on most prominent social media platforms. Digi-Me specializes in providing technology-infused video for recruitment firms so that they can match the right employers with the right talent. By transforming text-based job descriptions into shareable, trackable, sixty-second videos that boost the posting’s SEO, while reducing screening time and costs, Digi-Me aims to revolutionize recruitment. 78 / Sync

Issue 005

Lindsay Stanton Digi-Me Chief Client Officer

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“We all learn and retain so much more when we watch a video versus reading something. The fact of the matter is that most of us don’t read even a simple job description completely.” As chief client officer at Digi-Me, Lindsay Stanton utilizes the latest video technology to help clients staff their companies with the most suitable candidates as quickly as possible. The need for more efficiency in the online job recruitment field—both on the part of employers and jobseekers—is the driving force behind integrating video technology into the recruiting process. “I think there’s a lot of frustration around recruitment,” says Stanton. “Both from the candidates’ and the hiring managers’ perspective. Any time that technology can make that process more efficient, it offers the opportunity to make huge improvements in our space.” Stanton hopes video job-postings will leave online job-seekers feeling a little less confused as they wait to hear back from a potential employer about a job posting. Digi-Me is helping fill the gap in information through their solution called the Candidate Expectation video. The short, customized video helps to set job expectations for the hiring process, leaving the applicant with a clear understanding of timing and next steps, as well as providing a positive experience during the candidate's interaction with a potential employer's brand. Reports have proven that a negative experience during the application process can harm a company's brand image. “The number one complaint HR managers hear from candidates is that they applied for a job and never heard back,” Stanton says. “They felt like they got dropped into a black hole. We developed a short video that gets sent back to the candidate after they apply for the job, laying out the next few steps in the process. So if it’s going to take you four weeks to look at their resume, you as an employer can set that expectation with them so they’re not checking their inbox every day to see if they have a message from you.” Stanton believes the benefit of video-based communication stems from a natural human tendency to retain information better when it’s presented in video form. “If you look at how organizations communicate to people and how people best absorb information—we all learn and retain so much more when we watch a video versus reading something,” Stanton says. “The fact of 80 / Sync

the matter is that most of us don’t read even a simple job description completely—we’re just perusing that content and pulling out the relevant facts.” The outcomes of video job-postings yield a higher number of job candidates who fully understand and fulfill all the criteria of the position in question. “On the recruiting manager’s side, they’re getting better vetted, more relevant candidates coming to their door,” she says. “It’s creating much better efficiency.” Digi-Me’s recruiting method also has the benefit of SEO as well. “The improved search engine optimization and getting the employer’s job up on the front page of Google is going to help at any position type and any position level,” Stanton explains. “The tracking gives employers insight not only into the websites they’re sourcing for talent, but most importantly, they’re getting insight into where the candidates are sharing the video.” Digi-Me’s video job postings are designed to appear as native content on all major social media platforms, something Stanton sees as a further advantage over more traditional online-recruitment materials. “The videos can be shared on LinkedIn or through any social sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest; they are all mobile-enabled as well.” For Digi-Me’s largest clients, new positions must be filled as quickly and appropriately as possible, with little time for hold-ups in the hiring process. Video represents an opportunity to accelerate the recruiting process by providing quicker ways into the job descriptions for candidates, while still pairing the best people with the best employers. “We work with a really large volume of global entities, both on the staffing as well as the volume hiring side,” Stanton says. “I get to have insight into their business and help them leverage our solutions to deliver back to their customers more effectively, because they’re servicing the majority of the Fortune 1000 to fill position openings. A lot of times it’s super high volume and super quick, so they need something that’s very efficient and highly trackable to do that.” Issue 005

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Making Big Data Big Business J.D. Power’s tech team members aren’t order-takers. They’re strategic advisors­, which is the way CTO Jonathan Miller thinks it should be at every company. Interview with Kristen Bahler

JONATHAN MILLER’S RESUME IS a sharp departure from that of the typical tech executive. From raising venture capital and designing a business plan to generating leads and establishing partnerships, the first half of Miller’s career paints him as more savvy entrepreneur than IT professional. The CTO at J.D. Power & Associates has a fifteen-year startup career to thank for that. Today, as J.D. Power continues to do what it’s famous for—ranking automobiles based on customer satisfaction and allowing car companies to advertise those rankings—Miller is taking the company’s tech department to new heights. Here, he talks humble beginnings, J.D. Power’s “mini venture-capital model,” and why engineers should think like business partners.

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You’ve taken a nontraditional career path—tell me about your first jobs out of college. Jonathan Miller: After college, I landed a job at Timeplex, a New Jersey telecommunications company that was making money on the divesture of the Bell System. I was a wet-behind-the-ears electrical engineer, and after two or three years I felt a pull to the business side, so I took a sales support role. That’s how I learned to sell products. In 1991, I joined a startup company that was building what would one day become the Internet. They weren’t calling it the Internet at the time, of course; they were calling it NSFNet [National Science Foundation Network], and it was a notfor-profit model that operated on a contract from the National Science Foundation. There were about five people in the entire company and one cell phone the size of a shoebox. Basically, we sold commercial Internet connections, and I had to go around and teach businesses what that was. It was a wild ride. I had no

idea that it was ground zero of the modern Internet. After about five years there, a coworker and I launched our own startup, an intranet application that allowed companies to streamline human-resource actions, like benefits package selection. For the first few months we were working out of her home in Flushing, Queens. She and her husband moved out of the master bedroom so we could use it as an office. Eventually, we moved the company to White Plains, New York, and grew the company to over a hundred people, with millions of dollars in revenue.

How did you find your way to J.D. Power & Associates? Miller: In 2004 and 2005, I worked as a technology management consultant, and one of my clients was Standard & Poor’s (S&P), whose parent company, McGraw Hill Financial, also owns J.D. Power. I was sent to help the new CIO. I made some good recommendations on its product line, and he asked me to come aboard. Issue 005

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J.D. Power is shifting from a project-driven legacy environment to a more scalable environment that operationalizes innovation and growth. Every year, we set aside a portion of our operating budget for new project ideas. The company will invest in different ideas and monitor their monthly progress. Those that aren’t achieving certain goals are killed, but many blossom. It’s a mini venture-capital model within the business.

After you landed the CTO role, what changes did you immediately make? Miller: The IT department didn’t have a great working relationship with the lines of business when I came in. Internal IT was the choice of last resort. That’s not good. You need to work toward the same goals as the business: sales growth, profitability, and providing new products that offer the market new value. I’ve worked to make the department a strategic, innovative partner. I’ve also pushed for more of a technical skill set in the company. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to be an engineer, but a fluency in systems and how data works, as well as a good understanding of how information systems drive our business, is important.

“We set aside a portion of our budget for new project ideas. Those that aren’t achieving certain goals are killed, but many blossom. It’s a mini venturecapital model within the business.”

Jonathan Miller J.D. Power & Associates CTO

It was a scary moment. I’d only been with startups and this was a global, public company with thousands of employees, and I didn’t know jack about financial services. But I decided to face my fears. I’ve been here ever since; five years at S&P building scalable, high-speed financial services apps and tools, one year in the information and media segment; and four years working on platform capabilities to make J.D. Power a more dataand analytics-driven business.

How are you pushing the focus on data and analytics ? Miller: So many things are changing in this space—the way we shop, the way we share our experiences with products and services on social media. That’s been part of my mandate: to figure out how to collect data on those things, to move us more deeply into online analytics, and to drive speed, quality, and lower cost in our operations. 84 / Sync

How has your sales background served you as a CTO? Miller: IT leaders typically don’t have the kind of broader business sense that I have. I’ve raised venture capital, worked a speaking circuit, and have had to learn to sell to survive. That broader experience gives me a wealth of knowledge to draw on, and I naturally think about sales and distribution in ways my peers that went a “normal route” don’t necessarily know how to. I got a really great compliment from one of my peers on the J.D. Power executive team. He said, “Jonathan, when you’re speaking in a meeting and I close my eyes, it sounds like I’m listening to a sales guy.” I think that’s the way it should be—I need my team to speak the language of business and sales.

Now that you’ve worked on both side of the spectrum, how do you think sales and technology departments can work together to prevent silo mentality? Miller: Most people go into the tech field because they have an attention to detail and they like solving problems. If there’s a bug, we fix it. We like that. To graduate up the ladder you have to synthesize those issues and translate them into business impact. My team is not filled with order-takers. We’re not subservient to our business partners. We’re strategic advisors and we direct and develop new ideas. Tech teams need to have the confidence to be an equal player at the table. That sounds simple, but it can be a big cultural shift for many companies. Issue 005






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CIO How Larry Allen stepped in at the Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida to build its IT department from the ground up By Topher Bordeau

Larry Allen Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida VP of IT & CIO

LARRY ALLEN’S FIRST DAY ON THE JOB as CIO and vice president of IT at Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida (HNSF) was also the first day of the job, period. That meant that his initial objective extended beyond installing his role’s operational architecture. His first order of business involved figuring out the needs that architecture would support, and then letting those needs write the blueprint for his operational pillars and processes. “Traditionally, IT in health care and other industries has been viewed as an expense to be managed,” says Allen. “But as technology has become very disruptive in all industries, it has started to touch every department. My goal is to make technology a strategic asset to be deployed, not an expense to be managed. Technology can be used to solve business problems, solve clinical problems, and help further the mission of the organization.” Allen found an opportunity to effect the mindset change his goal implies immediately. Leading HNSF’s search for a new EHR vendor was the milestone initiative of Allen’s first year on the job, and the manner in which he led the search illustrates his vision for technology within the organization and how he empowers his

colleagues to deploy it effectively. “My personal view is that choosing which technology to deploy is not the CIO’s decision,” says Allen. “My job is to help all of the other senior management make informed decisions about that technology.” The first step in that process didn’t involve any technology; it involved relationships—specifically the earned trust that underscores positive relationships. Allen started forming relationships with his C-suite peers almost immediately after taking the job, leaning on the dialogue and nurtured trust to learn where his new organization was and where it wanted to go. He asked his colleagues across the organization about their pain points, their challenges, and their vision. He saw his colleagues as something more: customers. “I need to know who my customers are and they need to know who I am,” says Allen. “That is about extending trust.” Gaining and extending trust allowed Allen to accomplish his next objectives: establishing IT’s mission within the umbrella of HNSF, sharing that mission across the organization and community, and understanding the challenges to the mission that the IT department could solve. Sync / 87


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“I need to know who my customers are and they need to know who I am. That is about extending trust.”

One of the biggest—and most immediate—challenges to HNSF’s mission was squarely in Allen’s crosshairs. Meeting that challenge marked another key accomplishment of his first year. After learning that HNSF’s existing EHR software no longer met the organization’s needs, Allen devised and implemented a strategic plan to help find a better solution. “I didn’t make the decision,” says Allen. “The organization and user groups did.” Allen did, however, own the process by which those groups made the most informed decision possible. After examining the decisions of other organizations similar to HNSF and consulting external reviews of EHR solution providers, Allen narrowed the universe of possible vendors to four. He then convened a committee of employees representing every group of HNSF employees that would use the new EHR software. They formed his selection committee, and the committee evaluated the capabilities of each of the four finalist EHR vendors with a systematic scoring process. Allen also asked them to step back, look beyond their specific needs, and make an assessment of which vendor would provide the best solution for all of HNSF. The process was exhaustive, involving outside consultants to advise the committee, on-site demonstrations involving simulations scripted to the typical needs of the organization, and site visits to other organizations that ran each EHR system. Once the group was reduced to four and the process was set, Allen intentionally put himself in the back seat. “The user groups scored their recommendations and built consensus,” says Allen. “That happened because we followed a formal process and people made informed recommendations around the process.” The final result was as surprising as it was successful. “The presumed favorite didn’t win,” says Allen. “The vendor that was the least well known is the one that won.” And the indication of success was equally atypical: “Every stakeholder group voted the same option number one. That’s unusual in our industry.” And while Allen cares about the result of the major decision he facilitated with the company in his first year on the job, his greatest satisfaction has little to do with the outcome. “What the process really did was build consensus within the organization that, right or wrong, we’re in this together,” he says. “Whatever we decide is how we’ll move forward.” Issue 005



Even if you can beat them, join them. That’s the posture that an increasing number of tech leaders are taking to stay ahead. According to PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, 61 percent of tech companies’ growth plans include entering into a strategic alliance—a figure up 13 percent from 2014. Additionally, 62 percent of CEOs are, or are considering, partnering with direct competitors in order to foster growth. Percentage of tech companies that plan to enter strategic alliances to grow 61%




ASK YOURSELF How do you view your competitors? What are you doing to ensure successful growth?

Sources: PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey 2015;

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Issue 005


Every App is

a Passion Project Companies need mobile solutions, and Lextech’s Will Scott finds them by understanding the workflows necessary to survive in the mobile market By Jessica Montoya Coggins | Photo by Caleb Fox

WILL SCOTT LIVES AND BREATHES BY THE MOBILE CODE—a fervor that has translated to Will Scott Lextech President & Integrator

Lextech, one of the largest enterprise mobileapp developers in the country. Scott has been with Lextech Global Services now for more than five years as president and integrator, where he’s a dedicated mobile leader and a self-described “mobile passionista.” Companies and organizations reach out to Lextech when they need assistance with mobile strategy or developing mobile apps that support business goals. Lextech is not only an expert at developing custom apps, but

developing the right app at the right time. Scott and his team work with a number of different sales, operations, and IT teams on these mobile solutions with clients such as John Deere, H&R Block, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. According to Scott, Lextech excels in taking a strategy-first approach and working with companies to develop apps around the workflows that support their wider business strategy. “We specialize in apps that help businesses succeed and transform those businesses in powerful, measurable ways,” he says. Lextech is less a bunch of developers than it is a group of business experts who also happen to deliver apps. In order to evaluate a client’s needs, Scott and his team weigh a number of factors. “We identify with the Sync / 91


“At the core of business and mobile strategy is always people. Lextech is centered on helping companies succeed and improve the lives of their team members.”

Guest Editor

Developing a strong mobile strategy with innovative mobile apps can help your business attain a variety of objectives. With the emergence of the IoT, mobile apps can help to improve your customer experience and streamline your business processes. • What business goal have you met with a unique and innovative mobile app? • How do you go about determining which app can deliver the best return for you?

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business and their strategy, understand what workflows support that, and then consider what they want to do with their business.” It’s a series of tasks and questions that Scott and his team tackle. How does this company process success? How do they manufacture? How do they market? All of these questions and the possible solutions should be reflected by the app. Scott has found that many organizations come with a sense of which mobile app might be best for their business, but after completing a Lextech-run App Roadmap Workshop, they discover the apps that can deliver the best return. Lextech provides a guarantee that the client will achieve a 100 percent return on app (ROA)—the only company of its kind to do this. In fact, clients can expect a full ROA within a matter of months. For example, Lextech’s solution for Sonic Automotive reduced the typical four-hour sales cycle for selling a vehicle down to just 45 minutes by applying its workshop roadmap. Scott also knows that there is more to Lextech’s approach than the technical acumen his team demonstrates. In addition to his role as the mobile passionista, Scott champions culture. He is driven to provide an environment where employees thrive so that they can be their best selves; Scott believes in the importance of both the physical environment and the defined cultural core values. He is also intentional about his business relationships, including the one that brought him to Lextech. Armed with a software background, Scott went to lunch with Lextech’s CEO Alex Bratton one day in 2010. “At the end of the meeting, Alex asked how we could work together,” Scott says. “We have been very successful together, and the company has grown about 40 percent per year to eighty-five people today.” The company has opened offices in Champaign, Illinois, and downtown Chicago and made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing US companies twice. Lextech is changing and growing alongside the mobile-enterprise industry. In the last five years alone, the rise of smartphones, tablets, and wearables have irrevocably altered the mobile game. “We’re doing a lot of work with companies to help support their mobile commerce and point of sale,” Scott says. “Beyond mobile commerce we’re seeing new de-

THERE’S A MAP FOR THAT Scott and his team promise a high ROA—Return on App— for their App Roadmap Workshop, a two-day process for businesses that allows them to identify the best possible app for their purposes. These are the eight crucial steps for clients in determining their mobile goals. 1. Learn why mobile matters. Start with a broad overview of how mobile is making an impact on businesses. 2. Determine strategic goals. Answer the question: What are the metrics that will drive business forward? 3. Discover how to map a workflow. Determine the workflows that best support strategic goals. 4. Identify workflow issues. Walk through the workflow and discover if any issues are wasting resources. 5. Generate app concepts. Participants brainstorm app concepts that align all the measures identified previously, defining what the app does, for whom, and why. 6. Calculate the ROA. Determine the financial impact of each app. 7. Score your apps. Rate each app on key criteria such as implementation and user adoption. 8. Make an app roadmap. The results are turned into a prioritized roadmap of the top apps to focus on.

mand in the contextual Internet-of-Things area as well as solutions for enabling hardware connections across the business and the consumer markets.” At Lextech it’s about more than simply apps—it’s about connecting the systems behind them to accomplish the business strategy. “At the core of business and mobile strategy is always people,” Scott says. “That’s why the Lextech logo has the human icon in the center of it. Lextech is centered on helping companies succeed and improve the lives of their team members.” That focus is evidenced by a project with SKF Industrial, one of the world’s largest industrial companies. SKF partnered with Lextech to create an inspection app that ended up shaving 70 percent from a core workflow time. But the most remarkable thing was hearing from the workers that this app changed their lives and improved their relationships with their families. “Now that,” says Scott, “is succeeding with mobile.” Issue 005


Phillips Edison & Company’s CIO Shaun Smith’s

YEAR ONE Q1 Meet and map

Q2 Standardize reporting

Q3 Enable effective communication

Q4 Revolutionize leasing


By Tina Vasquez

and CIO of Phillips Edison & Company, which offers a fully integrated in-house operating platform to optimize value for its national portfolio of over 270 groceryanchored shopping centers. In his first year, Smith has been juggling projects, with the intention of creating engagement and enabling change. The CIO says it was in his first ninety days that he identified the projects and initiatives he’d be working on for the next year.

Shaun Smith Phillips Edison & Company SVP & CIO

Photo by Doug Baker

DESPITE BEING DRAWN TO ALL THINGS COMPUTER and programming related from a young age, Shaun Smith was unsure what he wanted to do with his life. He hoped the military would provide some guidance, so he enlisted. Little did he know that getting transferred to an IT-functional area would set him on a path that would shape his career, eventually leading to a coveted Realcomm 2010 Digie Award for “Best Use of Automation.” Currently, Smith is senior vice president

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As soon as he started at Phillips Edison & Company, Smith met with every department head, from HR to marketing, to discuss the departments’ strengths and weaknesses, their challenges, and what could be done to streamline processes and make them more efficient. •

Through these series of meetings and conversations, forty projects were identified. Smith consulted with the CFO and COO to prioritize the projects and outline a list of the most pressing initiatives.

The first project Smith tackled was implementing a new accounts payable process. The company was growing at a rapid pace and the systems in place weren’t successfully supporting that growth.

“It took a long time to process invoices,” Smith says. “It wasn’t about hiring more people; it was about making our processes efficient. We outsourced the scanning and indexing of our invoices, working with vendors to write routing rules for our invoices to be sent to the right places. With invoices being sent for roughly 270 sites, this was a huge challenge, but a successful endeavor.”

“In a meeting of all division heads, you all need to be looking at the same thing and at the most current version.”

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Of the forty projects identified early on by Smith, the next he chose to tackle was standardized reporting. The challenge was getting all of the various reporting systems on the same platform. •

“If I had to boil it down, the real goal was getting the most up-to-date, consistent information in front of the right people during meetings,” Smith says. “In a meeting of all division heads, you all need to be looking at the same thing and at the most current version.”

With the project ongoing and reports still being written, Smith and his team have made it so that there’s a single reporting statement format not just across departments, but company wide.

The benefit of tackling this project early on, the CIO says, is that it eliminates confusion during meetings and gives employees information they need to know, when they need to know it, and see how it relates to performance indicators.


The third project Smith undertook was one he characterizes as a “quick and easy fix,” but an important one nonetheless: revamping the intranet to Office 365. •

“More than anything, this was about giving marketing and communications the ability to communicate more effectively with each other and with associates,” Smith says.

The major problem with the intranet before the shift was that it was small and hosted internally, failing to provide the functionality that was needed for a growing company. Issue 005


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As his first year with Phillips Edison & Company comes to a close, Smith is juggling twenty-four projects. He’s humble about the challenges, but asserts his team makes it all possible. Projects are prioritized and broken down according to department, with the executive team providing resources to Smith that didn’t previously exist. Currently, Smith is taking the initiative on a forward-thinking project to develop automation for his company’s core leasing process. •

Using online tools, Smith is hoping to streamline the leasing process for consumers, enabling them to apply for leasing electronically. The project has the potential to reduce costs for both Phillips Edison & Company and its tenants by reducing shipping fees and notary costs, and more importantly, to trim vacancy time by expediting the process of putting interested, qualified tenants in empty spaces. “This isn’t something that we’re talking about or that might happen,” Smith says. “This is going to happen, and I am excited about how technology can provide us with competitive advantages.”


In 2016, Smith will keep a renewed focus on the budget and forecasting process to streamline budget preparation and quarterly reforecasts. He also plans to develop a strategy for HR systems to further consolidate and integrate them, making processing more efficient and eliminating the majority of the manual processes. And he’ll be doing all this, he says, with a simultaneous focus on cybersecurity.

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The Predictive Power of Eggs Benedict

“We can deconstruct a menu based on what we know about you as a company.”

US Foods has invested more than $10 million in IT infrastructure over the past several years. Chuck Sample, vice president of insights and analytics, explains why the ability to predict exactly how many chickens his customers need is transforming the industry. As told to Keith Loria | Photo by Caleb Fox

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WE HAVE A PROGRAM WITHIN THE ORGANIZATION called Cookbook, and My Kitchen is a one-to-one component of it. The great thing about working for a B2B is we can talk to each of our customers individually because we can afford to do it. We don’t have millions of customers, so we can establish a true one-onone relationship. We can drive sales intelligence to customers. My Kitchen is a completely customized effort where we reach out to every one of our customers and provide them with a unique, personalized offer strategy and content. It’s not a loyalty program, but it serves as a loyalty strategy, driving a relationship and a communication cadence where customers can anticipate the receipt of it. It’s delivered by the sales organization—and it’s also delivered online—and we push info through to categorical managers to let them know the greatest opportunities. There are several offer strategies embedded into it that are built off of retail best practices. There’s a “thank you” component to it, acknowledging purchasing decisions made in the past and providing a small reward for doing their business against some of the most important items we’ve identified for their business. It’s all done predictably. Issue 005

Chuck Sample US Foods VP of Insights & Analytics

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There’s a cross-sell component to drive affinity purchasing to categories they haven’t purchased before but have a high likelihood to purchase based on like-customers and their own buying behavior. There’s a component around greatest penetration of a category. If underpenetrated—in the poultry category for instance—and it’s clear they are not buying based on our predictive analytics, we drive for category penetration offers for additional volume and profit. The last piece is a continuity piece, building a basket offer over a thirty-day period. We analyze and forecast what spend should be and provide a stretch to that spend. If they achieve that spend, they get a pretty healthy rebate. Each offer is a nice, one-off strategy. It’s the combination of those offers that drives a loyalty response that is more than just promotional. It sustains us over time. The biggest thing we are able to do concerns pricing strategy. We’re somewhat unique to B2B because we can price to the customer, not the shelf like if you were in retail. Over the past twenty to thirty years, sales organization prices were based on tribal knowledge—observing history and a gut response to the market. Now, we are able to predict what the customer is willing to pay at that moment based on what they purchased and changes in volume in response to price. That has driven a groundswell around the organization about the opportunities that exist for predictive analytics. We piloted the concept to two to three divisions two years ago and delivered a new price range for each customer and item. A lot of change was needed. We’ve seen an incredible, powerful life in profitability and gross profit. What the sales organization was really surprised about was how accurate the pricing was. They feared taking pricing out of their hands in front of customers but found it was accurate and raised profitability. We use a net promoter score that’s able to look at key indicators—pricing confidence and price fairness. The irony is that as we generate more profit from the customer, our favorability has improved proportionally. That just proves there’s an opportunity to leverage predictive analytics to make a win-win. We’re making more profit but the customer sees the relationship as we understand where they are most price-sensitive and focus attention on the center of business. It’s done fairly and seamlessly and many don’t even know it’s happening—they just see results organically. The satisfaction with business has increased proportionally. 98 / Sync

Issue 005


Enlightened! Innovation and changes in technology are occurring more rapidly than ever before. Staying informed and connected is critical to business success. The Innovation and Technology Committees of The Executives’ Club of Chicago connect members with people and issues most influential to their businesses.

“Sales organization prices have been based on tribal knowledge—observing history and a gut response to the market. Now, we are able to predict what the customer is willing to pay at that moment based on what they purchased.”

Join other enlightened Chicago business leaders and become a member to learn about cutting edge trends, gain exclusive industry insights, share best practices in innovation and technology, and build strategic relationships. Learn more about membership with The Executives’ Club of Chicago: or call (312) 263-3500 and reference Sync.

A cool example of what we can do right now is we are able to know if Eggs Benedict is on the menu for one of our customers. We are able to capture menu data and say that Eggs Benedict equals eggs, Canadian bacon, hollandaise sauce, and an English muffin. We can determine based on a transaction history what you’re buying from us and establish what opportunities exist. If you’re not buying hollandaise sauce from us, we can sell you hollandaise sauce. It’s not rocket science, but we can deconstruct a menu based on what we know about you as a company. We will know if you make that sauce from scratch and we can put the right product in front of you based on customers with similar buying habits. We can predict what pricing should be for the product and have strong confidence there will be a willingness to pay. We can send a personalized offer for that product. It shows we understand their business and we have a firm understanding of where our opportunity is. Food service is very old-school. In a four-year period we have advanced this company along twenty-five years to become more than just an industry leader, but also a leader in the entire business community.

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Christi Liebe Rent-A-Center CTO

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Modern tech consumers set high expectations for traditional retailers to meet. Christi Liebe wants to exceed them. The CTO of Rent-A-Center outlines how a customer-focused tech department has amplified the retailer’s business By Melissa Anders

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That’s where AT&T can help. Our highly secure global network actively monitors and protects against threats in near real time – helping mitigate risks before you have to worry about them. Leaving you free to focus on what matters most. AT&T Business Solutions

© 2015 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. All other marks used herein are the property of their respective owners.

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Preoccupied by potential breaches?

TEN YEARS AGO, RENT-A-CENTER (RAC) HAD just a few people working in information technology. Now, the company boasts a 200-member IT team that’s catapulting the furniture and electronics rent-to-own retailer into a new world of consumer-focused technologies, heeding the call of tech-savvy customers who expect only the best and the fastest technology components in their retail transactions. A major player in that growth is chief technology officer Christi Liebe, who is molding the company’s vision and developing new technologies through an enterprise-IT management strategy. Liebe must support an enterprise with more than 20,000 employees while responding to a quickly changing environment. She strives to take limited IT resources and allocate them to projects that make the biggest impact on the business. Successful CTOs, she says, need to have good foresight, plan ahead, and balance process with agility. In many companies, the CTO is a strategy-oriented position with a small staff focused on new technologies. But as RAC’s CTO, Liebe manages a team of 150 people responsible for keeping the company’s computer systems running while also looking forward. She’s in charge of data center operations, infrastructure architecture, DevOps, database administration, and telecommunications connections to approximately 3,000 stores and 1,500 partner store locations. “If something’s down, it’s [the responsibility of ] me and my team,” Liebe says. According to Liebe, the CTO role opens more doors than director-level IT positions. Daily, she receives at least thirty emails or voicemails from people who want to sell her things, get her to a conference, or invite her to speak to groups. Liebe is involved in promoting the business in the press and among peers and works to attract women to technology jobs—a personal passion of hers. The job also requires that she sometimes focus outside the IT department within the business. “The expectation is you really understand where the business wants to go and help them get there rather than just take orders,” she says. “Yesterday’s functionally split organization structures don’t align to the new world as a service model. In the new world, customer experience provided via service delivery is all that matters to effective IT service delivery.” As a retailer, RAC’s IT department is heavily constrained on cost compared to tech companies with wider margins, Liebe says. The expectation of IT systems is lower for retailers. But the consumerization of IT is quickly changing that picture. “As people have experiences on their smartphones at home with huge bandwidth, they want to see that same experience at the office,” she says. “That really drives some fairly high customer expectations.” To meet those expectations, RAC has grown from relying on low-level technology to installing traffic counters, VoIP phone systems, Wi-Fi, and media walls Issue 005


in its stores. In 2014, it rolled out a new iPad application at its Acceptance Now kiosks, which are essentially RAC stores within a different retailer location. RAC is partnering with more than 250 different furniture, appliance, and electronics retailers throughout the United States and Puerto Rico to offer this service. For example, customers who visit an Ashley Furniture and are turned down for traditional finance options can stop by the Acceptance Now desk located within the Ashley location, type their information into the iPad app, and get approval to lease the furniture through RAC’s Acceptance Now program, under which RAC purchases the item from the retailer and leases it to the customer.

“As people have experiences on their smartphones at home with huge bandwidth, they want to see that same experience at the office. That really drives some fairly high customer expectations.” The iPads have cut application time from about sixty minutes to twenty minutes and lifted revenue by close to 40 percent in what has become RAC’s fastest-growing line of business. To start, kiosks were staffed with company associates, but Acceptance Now is deploying a version of its iPad technology to unmanned locations as well. RAC also is deploying a custom point-of-sale system that was in the works for six years. Liebe provides all of the environments for the developers, quality assurance, and testers. She manages the end-point team and provides support once the software is installed. The custom POS and iPad projects mark significant progress from where the company was even in the early 2000s, when it operated independent IT solutions at each of its stores. RAC has been around for about thirty years but is fairly new to the idea of enterprise IT, Liebe says. In 2014 she supported the establishment of an enterprise project management organization that puts together business cases, prioritization processes, and review committees to remain focused on key drivers of revenue and profit margin. “Before there was limited IT-business alignment,” Liebe says. “So there’s a dramatic change in what that looks like over the past year. I think it’s been awakening for all of our coworkers.”

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For musicians, it starts with sheet music. For the San Francisco Symphony’s Neal Wright, it starts with spreadsheets.

The Symphony’s

Data Maestro By Matt Alderton | Photos by Caleb Fox

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Wright stands in the symphony’s SoundBox, its late-night experimental performance space.

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When the San Francisco Symphony plays, Davies Symphony Hall swells with sound. Violins couple with clarinets. Trumpets dance with tubas. Bass drums converse with bassoons. The mellifluous result enchants the ears as well as the eyes, which fixate on the conductor’s prancing hands; the body, which lurches forward as if the orchestra were pulling it with a string; and the heart, which beats in time with the music like an extra piece of percussion. It’s an emotional experience. Unbeknownst to the audience, it’s also a scientific one, fueled not only by the San Francisco Symphony’s right-brained musicians, but also by its left-brained IT departments—specifically, CIO Neal Wright, who is helping the symphony leverage data to increase the size of its audience and the quality of its programs. “We track information about what is being performed, who is coming to see us, when they’re coming to see us, and the frequency of their visits,” explains Wright, who is the organization’s third CIO. “We truly are a data-driven symphony.” Although many are surprised to hear that a symphony has an IT department to begin with, let alone a thirst for data, it’s not as large a leap as it sounds. In fact, data and music have a lot in common: In the same way that individual music notes constitute a composition, individual data points constitute business intelligence. In both cases, the sum of individual parts creates a powerful whole that inspires its audience to react—or in the case of the San Francisco Symphony, to act. “The value of data is that it gives us the ability to understand our customers and the people we’re serving,” Wright says. “Our mission is to offer great music to our community here in the Bay Area and around the world. And when we also have information about what people are interested in, what motivates them, and their 108 / Sync

ticket-buying behavior, our technology department can empower other departments to better serve them in being able to access that great music.” The symphony—which was founded in 1911, five years after the historic San Francisco earthquake of 1906—has been collecting data since 2000, when it was among the first to implement Tessitura, a now ubiquitous enterprise software system for arts and cultural organizations. “We were one of the first five organizations to adopt it,” Wright says of Tessitura, which combines ticketing, marketing, fundraising, and customer relationship management into a single integrated platform. “When we adopted this system it suddenly generated the interest and the need to have an IT department with application developers and data analysts.” When he joined the Symphony in 2012, Wright’s goal was to entrust those developers and analysts with the computing power they needed to turn data into decisions. “My role so far has been finding ways to dedicate more computer resources to data collection and analysis,” Wright says. “When I showed up, our hardware was not being maximized to make data accessible and usable. On a high-volume sales day, for example, our systems might crash because they couldn’t handle the traffic. Issue 005

Neal Wright San Francisco Symphony CIO


“We truly are a data-driven symphony.”

To fix that, I’ve virtualized a lot of those systems; now, on high-volume sales days, we can give them more computing resources very easily.” The extra resources have empowered the symphony to double down on data-based decision-making. “One of our most recent projects is what we call ‘behavior reporting,’ which is observing what changes take place in the behavior of our patrons when an event happens,” Wright says. For example, the Symphony’s innovative Community of Music Makers program offers workshops for amateur musicians where Symphony artists mentor them. “People come from all walks of life to work with our musicians and to play and sing on the stage of Davies Hall,” says Wright. “The question we had was: What happens to those people who participate after the program? What the data shows is that they increase their engagement with the symphony after participating in this program, which is really exciting for us to see.” Although the results aren’t in yet, another recent example is SoundBox, a nightclub-style performance series that the Symphony created in a cavernous rehearsal space in Davies Symphony Hall. During its four-month season in spring 2015, the Symphony offered ten experimental performances by the Symphony’s musicians, who performed in an environment that included loungestyle seating, multiple stages, high-tech lighting and video screens, as well as craft cocktails and gourmet snacks. “Typically the average age of our audience is somewhere in the sixties; the average age for these shows was much lower,” Wright says. “Over time, we’re expecting the data to tell us whether those young people become patrons of the Symphony as a result of their experience in SoundBox.” When Wright’s team implements a new scheduling system—which it plans to do in the near future— 110 / Sync

the Symphony will be able to take its data mining even further in order to determine not only which programs attract new patrons, but also which music selections do the same. “When someone buys a ticket to a program with a variety of composers, the patron may be interested in Beethoven, or perhaps a contemporary composer on that same program. Once we replace our scheduling system, we will be able to aggregate the data to identify programming combinations,” says Wright, who attributes the Symphony’s appetite for innovation to longtime music director Michael Tilson Thomas. Leader of the Symphony since 1995, Thomas is a major supporter of using Internet2, the not-for-profit computer-networking consortium, for the arts. “He is known for taking a maverick approach to classical music, and he’s applied that same approach to technology.” That technology leadership promises to take the San Francisco Symphony to new and exciting places in the years ahead. In addition to data analytics, for instance, the Symphony is planning to integrate digital technology into the lobby at Davies Symphony Hall, where it will give patrons an interactive way to learn about the Symphony’s performances and musicians. Someday, it might even stream live performances to remote audiences, or engage patrons via their smartphones during concerts—even though keeping one’s phone on has traditionally been taboo. “There are a lot of technology question marks in the arts right now,” Wright says. “The possibilities are really exciting.”

Editor’s Note: At press time, Wright was no longer with the San Francisco Symphony. Issue 005

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In 2015, Verizon Enterprise Solutions released a report outlining key technology challenges unique to the media and entertainment industries. Companies producing film, digital content, animation, live events, and episodic television face challenges in several core areas: 1) Production: T  his includes acquisition as well as creation, and must take nonlinear workflows into account. 2) Transport: Security and speed are primary concerns of how digital media is transported. 3) Management:The storage, protection, and management of media properties requires a scalable and nimble infrastructure. 4) Distribution: Delivery of high-quality digital content across a wide range of platforms and devices is an ever-evolving challenge.

One solution proposed is the development of the mediafocused cloud, which combines Infrastructure-as-as-Service with Software-as-a-Service technologies to help media companies support a global workflow. As enterprise companies work to create solutions customized for specific industry needs, the ability to understand these industries is becoming more valuable, as is the need for an IT team that can offer different perspectives on how to create products for a growing array of diversified clients.

Source:“Global Media & Entertainment Cloud Ecosystem: Managing Emerging Global Digital Workflows,�

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The Digital Triple Crown Todd Unger has led the 121-year-old Daily Racing Form from a print-only publication to an interactive, multiplatform horseplayer resource with real-time reporting, betting, and fantasy offerings By Geoff George | Photo by Caleb Fox

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Todd Unger Daily Racing Form Chief Digital Officer


On a good day, a thoroughbred racetrack equals—perhaps surpasses—the majesty of any major league ballpark or NFL stadium. There’s the shining sun, the freshly cut infield grass, and the fine dirt of the oval course itself, raked in rows as neat as a Zen rock garden’s. Once the races begin, there’s also the rapid-fire chatter of the announcer, the eye-popping colors and patterns of jockey’s jerseys, and the grace and proud musculature of the horses themselves. And, of course, there are the horseplayers, watching intently, Daily Racing Form in hand. It’s a full sensory experience, and now you can get a taste of it anywhere thanks to Daily Racing Form’s new and expanding digital offerings. The 121-year-old horseplayer bible has evolved into a real-time online and mobile presence with both reporting and wagering services, and much of its transition has come courtesy of chief digital officer Todd Unger and his team. Unger joined Daily Racing Form in 2010 to accelerate its digital transformation with his combined experience as both a consumer-facing product developer and a digital executive. He began his career with Procter & Gamble Co. and Leo Burnett Company, Inc., and at the latter he came up with the idea and tagline for Gladware containers: “the containers you love to use, but can afford to lose.” Eventually, he joined America Online in 1997 as a product manager, and from there he moved further into the digital realm for companies as diverse as Lifetime Television and Major League Gaming. He met media player John Hartig while working for Lifetime, and later Hartig reached out with a new job opportunity after becoming CEO of Daily Racing Form in 2008. He wanted Unger to help transform the venerable brand for the 21st-century digital marketplace.

“The company I joined was pretty much still a newspaper-first company at that point; it was repurposing content online,” Unger says. “The company we have now is an integrated, premium content-and-services company that serves the horseplayer across all platforms.” Unger’s first task was to conceive a new programming strategy for, which led to the addition of video, email marketing, and more. There was still something missing, though; people were coming to the site by the thousands to get handicapping information for races, but they had to go elsewhere online to place bets. “What we were hearing from people was, ‘Boy, it would be really great if we could just do that all in one place,’” Unger says. Plenty of people are still playing the ponies. According to Unger, about $10.6 billion was wagered last year on approximately 30,000 races in the United States. Roughly 30 percent of that money was bet online, where horse racing is the only sport Americans can legally gamble on. So, when Unger and his team launched DRF Bets in spring 2011, it immediately became a major new revenue source. They built the betting service for web and mobile through a partnership with Xpressbet, which handles all back-end wagering operations so that Daily Racing Form can concentrate on marketing and customer development. Unger’s second major innovation came to him while he was in the stands at Florida’s Gulfstream Park in January 2014. He was doing his own handicapping with the print edition of Daily Racing Form and thought to himself how useful it would be to have the reporters’ latest insights at his fingertips. “Most wagering occurs five minutes before post time,” he says. “So, there’s this real need for people, as they’re playing, to get real-time, last-minute information.” He wrote down “real-time DRF,” took it back to the office, and two weeks later launched the first test of DRF Live. Daily Racing Form’s development team built the reporters a special mobile app that allows them to post breaking information and stats directly to and Twitter; the reporters took to the idea immediately because it lets them publish from anywhere in an instant. DRF Live took off in summer 2014, and approximately in tandem with it, Unger and his team revamped and rere-


when you go over a jump. Otherwise, it will stop and you’ll go flying.”

Todd Unger’s daughters have been riding horses for several years, and his wife recently picked it back up again, too, so he opted to join them rather than watch from the sidelines. He can already canter and is now working on jumps, and here he shares what he’s learned from his lessons so far.

“Fix it forward.” “This is a favorite quote from my instructor. When things are going wrong or getting messy, don’t stop. Fix it in motion.”

Lead with your eyes and legs. “A lot of people think that horseback riding is about steering with your hands and shouting ‘giddyap.’ In reality, you lead by looking where you want to go and communicating with pressure from your legs.” Keep a leg on. “You’ve got to keep the pressure on the horse 114 / Sync

Don’t be afraid. “When you see your instructor literally raise the bar, it can be a little scary, and your horse can sense this. I’ve learned to just set that fear aside and take the jump.” Caring is part of the lesson. “For every hour of riding, there’s an hour of tacking and untacking the horse, and this time is just as important in terms of connecting.”

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CASE STUDY THE FANTASY SIDE With DRF Bets and DRF Live in place, chief digital officer Todd Unger is now also working to ramp up Daily Racing Form’s fantasy offerings. The company recently acquired rights to,, and, a trio of sites it now refers to collectively as its “tournament” space. Players can sign up, choose horses, and place “mythical wagers” on racing events. The top performers then get to attend live handicapping championships in Las Vegas and at the Breeders’ Cup to compete for multimillion-dollar purses. As of press time, Unger hoped to have new platforms launched for each site by the end of summer 2015 that will rival the sophistication of platforms at major daily fantasy sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings. And, the sites will also eventually integrate data with data from tote betting systems, which track live odds.




The idea is to make the fantasy side as user-friendly as possible to gradually introduce more people to the sport. “These online tournaments,” Unger says, “they’re easy to enter, easy to understand, and they’re starting to attract a younger and more diverse audience to racing.”

leased DRF Formulator for both the web and tablets. Formulator is a comprehensive, interactive database that allows users to customize the way they look at horses’ past performances. With lightning speed, dozens of stats can be called out or hidden, and horses and riders can be highlighted and arranged as needed. Formulator offers so much data that can be looked at in so many ways that the company hired an analyst to mine it full-time for trends, which he then presents to users to show them new ways to use the database. DRF Live has already “made its way into the fabric of everything we do in terms of content,” Unger says, “and updates instantly ripple across our whole digital platform.” Soon, he will integrate it even further with DRF Formulator and DRF Bets. “We’re so far past that idea of the newspaper versus the digital,” Unger says. “We’re just one content-production company that wants to help people play better. That’s the big change for us.”


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Watching Chief product officer Neil Hunt is dreaming up the next evolution in streaming entertainment at Netflix By Megan Bungeroth | Photo by Chris Loufte

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A typical American adult trudges home after a long day at work. She’s tired, looking forward to a relaxing evening. Maybe she heats up some leftovers, pours a glass of wine, and plops down onto the couch, opening her laptop, or switching on her smart TV. The red screen appears. Her finger hovers over the queue.


Netflix’s share of peak download Internet traffic in North America


Number of Netflix streaming members worldwide


Net income in Q2 2015


Hours of content viewed by Netflix members daily


Hours of content watched by Netflix members globally in a three-month period

This is the moment of truth, and little does she know that an entire team of data scientists, developers, and designers have spent countless hours dissecting this very moment, building an experience that is somehow individually tailored yet universally appealing. This is the moment that Neil Hunt, the chief product officer of Netflix, knows is crucial to the success of the company, because it’s at this moment that the two sides of the business—the content side and the technology side—are perfectly merged. Whether our American hero will choose to continue watching an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer she started yesterday, or try out a new Netflix original documentary about world-renowned chefs, or find an indie flick based on her interest in visually stunning dramas, that moment has been brought to bear by the convergence of content and form, art and technology. It’s been engineered, just for her, and the more than 65 million other Netflix streaming subscribers around the world. When Hunt talks about bringing the best possible viewing experience to Netflix customers, he’s excited not just by the results his team produces but also by the technology that bolsters them. “The recommendations technology isn’t just a feature; it sits behind absolutely every screen that presents content to the user,” Hunt says. “What are you going to be interested in tonight? What did you watch yesterday, what have you watched in the past that’s like that, where can we draw connections, how can we use the data to put twelve things in front of you, one of which is a really compelling, inter-

esting piece of content that’s going to capture your interest and engage you for the night?” It takes many smart minds and much trial and error to actually answer that question, but that’s what drives Hunt’s teams at Netflix’s headquarters in Los Gatos, California. As the chief product officer, he’s overseeing several departments that work together on the design, implementation, and operation of Netflix’s streaming technology—figuring out what to build, how to design it, and how to operate it. The teams overlap and collaborate, which is what Hunt says enables them to innovate without fear of breaking anything. “By keeping the product management and engineering close together, we unlock a lot of synergies, making sure that we design something that’s buildable and build something that meets the real requirements of the design,” Hunt says. “Then on the operational side, if you build the thing and then toss it over the wall to an ops team to run it, you lose the opportunity to really internalize the lessons that come from discovering where and why things break and how they need to be fixed.” Under Hunt’s guidance, Netflix was an early adopter of “dev-ops,” a system in which the developers of a product also operate that product and are responsible for how it works. The company routinely rolls out new offerings and variations for its streaming customers in small groups, testing them and getting user feedback before implementing changes to the whole subscriber base. “Developers conceptually carry the pager that wakes them up in the middle of the night if [a component] stops working, which gives them great incentive to build it so that it’s stable; so that if it fails, it fails safely,” Hunt says. “We’ve done a lot of work to build a very available, very reliable system over the years.” Hunt joined Netflix in 1999, after cofounder and CEO Reed Hastings, with whom he had worked at Pure Software in the nineties, persuaded him to join the stillnew company. “It was a radical shift in direction, from enterprise-software engineering to consumer business, and within a year or so, I was actually doing the product Sync / 117


management side of the business too, which was a very different thing than I had been doing,” says Hunt, who has a doctorate in Computer Science from the University of Aberdeen, U.K., and a background in research and development. “Back in 1999, there wasn’t really a big population of dot-com experts or people who had worked at this kind of industry for a long time. Everybody who was moving in there was getting in at the ground level and learning new ideas and new technology. That was the norm, and it was really an exciting time.” Hunt was able to build his department from the ground up, and played a big role in developing Netflix’s game-changing streaming service. Today, Netflix is not only a leader in the delivery of shows and movies; it’s creating new shows, including Emmy-nominated and critically-acclaimed House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, as well as producing fan-favorite reboots of shows once canceled by ratings-dependent traditional networks. In its 2015 third quarter earnings report, Netflix boasted to shareholders that on the Sunday following the third season release of Orange is the New Black, “members globally watched a record number of hours in a single day, led by Orange, despite the season finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones and game five of the NBA finals also falling on that Sunday.” While that’s certainly a victory for the company’s programming side, those kinds of record-number statistics also present unique challenges to the engineering and delivery side for which Hunt is accountable. The company that practically invented binge watching is now responsible for 36 percent of peak download traffic in North America, according to bandwidth-management systems vendor Sandvine, creating conflicts with ISPs over who should be paying for this influx of traffic. Netflix’s answer to this was to develop OpenConnect, an appliance that tech news blog Gizmodo reverently called “an unassuming box that holds approximately one Netflix.” OpenConnect boxes contain large quantities of Netflix’s streaming library—each can be tailored for what’s popular in the geographic region it will serve—and are placed in ISP data centers or Internet exchange locations around the world to deliver content right where it’s most in demand.

“The data doesn’t flow across the Internet backbone, so your video data isn’t competing with everybody else’s email and Facebook,” Hunt explains. “It’s really being delivered over what the network engineers call ‘the last mile’ which may not be an actual mile, but is sort of conceptually the last step of the Internet before you reach the consumer.” OpenConnect helps ensure that thousands of subscribers at once can watch popular shows or movies; it also helps the company to argue in favor of net neutrality, Hunt says, by making it easy for ISPs to pick up the data from Netflix close to the streaming user at no cost. The company is able to determine what should go in those OpenConnect appliances the same way they can predict what its viewers will watch—through analyzing massive amounts of data. Data analysis is also how Netflix creates what it calls “micro-genres,” the sub-categories tailored so specifically that they can seem spooky. That average American on her couch deciding what to watch may select not only from Popular on Netflix or Comedy categories, but from micro-genres like “dark cerebral foreign crime dramas” or “romantic comedies featuring a strong female lead,” and they’re far from random. “We have a collaboration between a human analytics group and the algorithms and data. There’s a group of my team, they’re called the taggers, and their job is to watch every piece of content that we have, and then to classify it,” Hunt says. “They have a universe of 500 or 1,000 different tags, like ‘cerebral’ and ‘dark’ and ‘crime drama,’ and they’ll attach those tags, or sometimes they’ll score those tags. How rich is the character development, how visually stunning is this piece of content on a scale of one to five?” Everything gets tagged, and then algorithms do the work of determining how likely a viewer is to watch Show A if they’ve already watched ten other shows tagged with “crime.” Hunt says that a big part of why this works so well is that the Netflix interface uses these tags to tell the viewer why they might be interested in something. “If I just offer you a suggestion and you don’t know what it is, you don’t know whether you’re going to enjoy it or not. But if I tell you that you’re going to enjoy it because it’s cerebral and gritty and a crime drama, then you understand why,” Hunt says. “And if you’re not in the mood for cerebral tonight because it’s been a busy

We have a collaboration between a human analytics group and the algorithms and data.

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Neil Hunt Netflix Chief Product Officer


day, then you can choose a different road.” Anticipating what viewers want, by sifting through data and testing new products, is a big part of what Hunt and his teams do, and that’s not just related to software. Netflix works closely with television manufacturers to build Netflix buttons right into smart-TV remotes. Vendors such as LG, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, Hisense, and Insignia that run the latest version of the Netflix app and can meet a certain set of performance criteria— with features like fast app launch and rapid play starts, as well as ease of access to the Netflix app—in turn receive the “Netflix Recommended TV” designation. “For the consumer, that provides a bright line, that this is a good implementation that’s going to work well,” Hunt says. “Given that there are now about 3,000 different models of TV and Blu-ray player that operate with Netflix, the choice for consumers is difficult.” If Hunt has anything to do with it, that choice will become even tougher over the next couple of years, as Netflix prepares to offer content for a new generation of viewing technology. Because the company can control the production pipeline for its original content, it can create, for example, films shot to optimize ultra high definition (UHD) and 4K technology, which offers a resolution of nearly 4,000 megapixels. “The thing that’s unique for Netflix is that we can embrace and support a 4K service long before a cable operator could, or a broadcaster, or a satellite operator, because we deliver individually,” Hunt says. “We don’t have to allocate a new cable channel, or new wireless spectrum, in order to be able to put a new channel out with a new format. And we don’t have to upgrade everybody’s set-top box to receive it. We can do this on a one-person basis.” Hunt is also looking forward to the next frontier of what’s called High Dynamic Range, a technology that shows brighter whites and darker blacks with more contrast and less banding or contouring in between pixels, making the images seem more vivid. “I’ve seen some HDR examples where the sun shines on a reflective window or a lake or a piece of ocean, and you have to reach for your sunglasses because the reflection is so bright that it really begins to feel very realistic,” he says. Some of what Hunt envisions hasn’t even been invented yet, but that doesn’t stop him from looking for what’s missing from the viewing experience and working to make sure that Netflix is the company to fill in those gaps. “I’m super excited about what I’m calling ‘surround vision,’ the idea that you can film a show for super-wide field-of-view—perhaps rendered on three screens, one in front of you, one on each side—curving 120 / Sync

INCLUSIVE BINGE WATCHING In 2015, Netflix released its original series Marvel’s Daredevil, about a blind lawyer fighting injustice by day and battling criminals as a superhero by night. The most daring part of the series, however, is the fact that it’s accompanied by an option for English audio description. With that option selected, a narrator fills in the gaps for visually-impaired viewers by describing the action in between sound effects and dialogue. As the show’s first episode begins, the narrator sets the scene: “A man walks cautiously between cars toward an accident, his face searching. Traffic is stopped. Dozens of pedestrians rush to the scene. His eyes grow alarmed as he shoves his way through the crowd.” The offering is just the first in what Hunt says will be a growing library of films with narrative description. “We’re interested in offering a service that is inclusive for both hard-of-hearing and also visually disabled people,” Hunt says. “We started several years ago doing English captions for content for our American subscribers, and we’ve extended that to include captions and subtitles in up to fifteen languages for different pieces of content across the world.” The company recently launched in Japan, which Hunt says required his teams to tackle the particular challenges of presenting the Netflix portal and its content and subtitles in a glyph-based language. With Netflix now currently available in all of North and Latin America, much of Europe, and Australia and New Zealand, and plans to be global by the end of 2016, the company is committed to reaching as many viewers as possible. “We’re working toward having relevant captions for most of our overseas consumers also, in their language,” Hunt says. “That will take a while to get to, but it’s something where we make steady progress year by year.”

screens spanning 120 or 180 degrees of view,” he says. The main camera and screen would capture the central action, but the surrounding screens would create an immersive experience that puts the viewer into the set. “The horror movies can be that much more scary; the action flicks make you feel like you’re really in there, engaging in the battle.” Hunt acknowledges the financial and technical hurdles he and his team would face to push that type of technology into the mainstream. But not that many years ago, the idea that a person could sit down at a computer screen, and instantly call up thousands of TV shows and movies to watch at any time of her choosing, also faced significant hurdles. Hunt’s enthusiasm for this next phase of entertainment innovation makes it seem just that much closer, like you could reach out and touch it. “I don’t know exactly how we’ll get there, but I’m pretty confident that Netflix is in a great position to get on the forefront of that and help to invent some of that technology and begin to bring it to reality,” Hunt says. “I’m excited to be a piece of that, because that will be fun. It’s not today’s mainstream problem, but it’s something that I think is an adventure for the future.” Issue 005

FOCUS arts & entertainment

There’s No Gambling in Security William Worthington is charged with protecting the personal data of millions of guests who flock to Caesars Entertainment resorts and casinos across North America Interview with Zach Baliva

William Worthington Caesars Entertainment VP of Information Technology Security

The days of the traditional casino heist are long gone. Today’s Vegas thieves use a new set of digital tools to rob casinos—and they’re not necessarily after cash and chips. Hundreds of thousands of transactions occur daily at Las Vegas casinos. Just like Target, Home Depot, or any other major retailer, casinos experience data loss at the point of sale. Unlike some retailers, gaming industry behemoths retain huge amounts of customer data for marketing purposes and rewards programs. And that consumer information is more valuable than the money flowing in and out of the building itself. In May of 2015, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas revealed that hackers had been stealing customer information from its servers for up to seven months, citing credit and debit transactions at several pointof-sale locations. Stolen information included names, account numbers, and verification codes. Caesars Entertainment’s vice president of information technology security, William Worthington, is keeping a watchful eye on this and other incidents because he knows just how much a negative incident can affect a casino’s bottom line. “It’s about protecting your brand,” he says. “Lost trust isn’t easily regained, and we know that our customers can spend their money at any other casino on the Strip. We have to protect their data so they feel comfortable staying with us.” More than 170,000 debit and credit cards were affected in the Hard Rock incident. Hackers infected the casino’s point-of-sale system with memory scraping malware that works around encryption to collect sensitive information. The malware is notoriously difficult to detect—but doing so is just one part of Worthington’s

big job. He recently sat down with Sync to share his plan for protecting customer data and building a robust security program at Caesars Entertainment.

There’s a lot going on with security these days. As you walk around Caesars, what’s on the forefront of your mind each day? William Worthington: Loss of PCI, PII, or IP data through theft of data, DDOS, and espionage, because any of these incidents would lead to a loss of brand confidence. What’s changed in the industry over the last few years? Worthington: Before the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard and compliance measures came, the industry as a whole didn’t focus on security as a cost associated with fixing problems. It was easier to pay fines and assume risk, but when those auditable requirements changed, and more focus came because of breaches in the news, risks grew bigger and casinos started shifting their approach. What’s been your focus since you accepted a position at Caesars in 2012? Worthington: We work as a cohesive team, and together we are working to complement the strides we’ve made in prevention with robust solutions around detection. More casino companies are reporting comproSync / 121


Guest Editor

Information security has increasingly become a proactive environment with a more holistic approach. Maintaining effective IT security controls has become an ongoing effort, which remains in the forefront of any business strategy. • Information security is everyone’s job within the enterprise. How do you maintain effective security awareness and training throughout your organization? • Information security can be reactionary. How do you help your business partners understand the effectiveness of a robust, proactive information security plan, and accept what it will take to achieve that plan?

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mises, and the frequency of reported breaches across several industries is on the rise. We’ve built a holistic security program with a security in-depth methodology, and in three years we’ve gone from a small unit to a team of thirty-five. We’ve built programs to meet or exceed all standards and regulations, we’ve created a risk heat map, and we’ve reviewed and created all new security policies along with a new security education program. We’ve deployed new security technology and have upgraded to next generation firewalls while deploying data-loss-prevention tools. We simply must be equipped to detect malicious acts and stop an incident before it really starts.

What are you focusing on next? Worthington: Now that we’ve built the framework with the tools, policies, and processes, we want to measure ourselves against standards and quantify data to show the level of risk Caesars has today. We want to identify the next area of concern and anticipate more than we do today. Can you guess the biggest change coming in the next eighteen months? Worthington: I think there will be large changes across all the regulatory bodies as they push for stronger security controls and a focus on an overall security program. How is the responsibility of a CISO or someone in your position changing? Worthington: It’s getting more difficult. We have so much data, and mobile threats are increasing as people bring a larger variety of devices into our environment. The perimeter of every business is getting larger and larger, and we must communicate the ever-increasing threat to senior leadership. So how do you react? Worthington: By always looking forward and evolving our security programs to adjust to the ever-changing threat landscape. We must continuously monitor the network through log-management systems and advanced analytics to detect possible threats from inside and outside the environment in order to quantify and qualify our security risk to the board.

You’ve mentioned brand confidence. What else is at stake for a company like Caesars Entertainment? Worthington: These incidents will impact the bottom line. We track revenue on a daily basis, and if our occupancy drops because of lost trust in our ability to protect data, it’s going to affect our bottom line in a big way. Our higher-end customers come here and spend millions of dollars. The loss of just one customer could make a big difference, and we’re talking thousands of customers impacted in recent incidents at other casinos on the Strip. What do you learn from observing these attacks?

Worthington: It’s no surprise that they’re going after data, because casinos collect and keep big amounts of customer data. They’re not trying to hack our bank accounts. That’s not where the value is. Attacks are getting larger, and the frequency of attack is greater. The bad actors are customizing attacks to get the exact information they want. They might purchase source code, but they manipulate it to take advantage of a specific environment. The premise of preventing an attack is gone. It takes a big investment to fight back because you have to gather information from every entry point in the network, track all sensitive data, and trigger alerts based on abnormal behavior. Tell me about your tokenization program. Worthington: This has been one great step for us. Caesars has implemented both point-to-point encryption and tokenization to remove all credit card data from all systems that process, store, and transmit it. This essentially removes all risk to credit card data theft. How is it possible to remove all risk of credit card data theft? Worthington: In most POS systems, there’s a split second after the card swipe in which the data isn’t encrypted, and that’s enough time for malware to collect the information. Casinos retain data so we know where people are shopping and how to market to them. With a third-party token, we remove all of that consumer information and just retain the token that has no value if it’s stolen. We never have the credit card information, and a breach like the one that happened at Hard Rock or Target can’t happen here. As of June Issue 005

SYNC_Caesars_13_ad.pdf 1 26-May-15 10:09:39

FOCUS arts & entertainment


2015, we are 100 percent tokenized and retain no credit card data in our environment.

You host the DEF CON Hacking Conference each year. What do you learn from having the world’s best hackers on your premises? Worthington: DEF CON attracts around 20,000 participants, including IT security professionals, law enforcement, code developers, gamers, ethical hackers, and kids to come exercise their skills. We take precautions and create the right environment so they can’t step outside of the bubble they’re supposed to be in. It gives us a great chance to work with vendors to see if they can handle a large volume of malicious activity in one space, and I use it to train my staff to investigate incidents or work with tools we deploy in our own space.








“Lost trust isn’t easily regained, and we know that our customers can spend their money at any other casino on the Strip. We have to protect their data so they feel comfortable staying with us.”

What are the keys to success in a casino environment where so many people come and go, sharing personal and financial data along the way? Worthington: We know that we have to develop programs that adjust to the threat landscape. The company and the board need to understand that security is a journey and not a destination, so it’s never done. The biggest thing we can do is educate the end user and the patron so they take steps to protect themselves, too. In the end, security is everyone’s responsibility.



SOPHISTICATED HACKS ARE CONSTANTLY EVOLVING. Just having a security infrastructure is not good enough. You need the best security available to prevent zero-day threats, protect your data, and mitigate attacks. A security that provides the best threat catch rate, in the fastest time. A security that secures your data anywhere it goes.

Check Point: The Best Security

WE SE CURE THE FUTURE Happiest Minds has helped Caesar’s Entertainment set up a Next Gen 24/7 incident detection and response center to detect and protect against current threats and move towards advanced level of situational awareness across the enterprise, by integrating analytics and advance threat intelligence capabilities. Our Cyber Security solutions has helped numerous clients enhance their overall security posture and reduce operational costs.

©2015 Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. All rights reserved. Check Point Software Technologies, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.

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guest editor Q&A

Patty Hatter is Improving Your Digital Experience Get to know our guest editor, the CIO of Intel Security Interview with Megan Bungeroth | Photo by Caleb Fox

Patty Hatter has spent her career taking leaps—whether that’s moving for a position in Europe, switching between industries and Fortune 500 countries, or simply recognizing that sometimes executives need to let go of their ideas in favor of better ones. As a seasoned information security expert, Hatter brings a wide range of experience to her role as the CIO of Intel Security. Sync spoke to Hatter about her leadership approach, people she admires most in tech, and why she wants to ban “big data.”

Your educational background is in mechanical engineering. How does that base of knowledge inform your role as CIO now? Patty Hatter: I’m a big fan of people who have engineering degrees and use that as a platform to then branch out to a range of fields. As a CIO, I’m constantly being exposed to new technologies. With the technology landscape evolving so quickly, having an engineering degree and applying that core discipline is instrumental in my ability to understand the value of new technologies, and how they might be applied to the business.

Patty Hatter Sync 005 Guest Editor 124 / Sync

Can you name a book that has influenced your leadership style in some way, and tell us why it impacted you? Hatter: Most any book by Patrick Issue 005

guest editor Q&A

Lencioni—he writes on business management, particularly in relation to team management. He puts keen business insights into practical situations that are relatable to everyone. One of my favorites of his is The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, in which he writes how the primary difference between successful companies and ordinary ones has little to do with what they know and more to do with how healthy they are. I’ve seen that play out in my own organizations, so I can definitely relate to the themes in his book.

Hatter: Yes, definitely. Social media has been a great resource for me to keep my finger on the pulse of new technologies and business trends that are emerging across multiple industries and geographies. It’s a great way to stay connected with other tech leaders on a regular basis. We’ve also used social media as a great way to recognize our teams.

and IT. This has been incredibly valuable in my role as CIO—I can put myself in the shoes of my peers across the organization to better understand their business needs and translate that into what IT can do to support them.

What’s a Twitter feed you would recommend every tech leader follow?

Hatter: I’m lucky I enjoy working, because I spend a lot of time doing that! When I’m not working, I do what most other folks are doing in their spare time—spending time with my family and friends, watching my son play soccer on the week-

Hatter: Marc Andreessen (@pmarca), cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz. Marc’s got an innate

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

What’s one industry-jargon word or phrase you’d like to see banned? Hatter: “Big data.” Over the past few years, new technologies have made a significant impact in the amount and speed of data that can be collected and analyzed. I feel businesses, especially IT organizations, need to spend more time in connecting the large amounts of data into truly actionable business insights, that tangibly improve the revenue, profitability, or customer experience.

And one you’ve heard that is actually effective? Hatter: A really effective phrase being used is “digital experience.” I think it places more of a true connection between the technology and the customer who is using it. “Improving your digital experience” is more proactive and respectful of the end user who needs to navigate the interfaces we’ve placed in front of them. It’s IT’s responsibility to keep user experience in the forefront and ensure we design experiences that fit the customers’ business needs and environment.

Do you think social media helps you do your job? If so, how?

“The fun part of work is being able to come up with a compelling vision for your organization, and form a team that is equally energized about that vision. With that, you’ll be able to achieve incredible things.” ability to see where technology is going and forecast applicable uses throughout a vast array of industries. He is truly tapped into what does or doesn’t make sense in technology and can connect the dots at the speed of light when it comes to applying technology across a wide spectrum of business opportunities.

How do aspects of your background at different companies like AT&T and Cisco, in business operations roles, inform the work you do as CIO now? Hatter: I feel very fortunate to have had such a wide variety of roles so far in my career, from business development, sales, professional services, BU management, operations,

ends, trying to improve my cooking skills (my son really encourages that because he wants me to increase my repertoire of recipes), and getting my hour of Pilates in every Saturday.

What’s going to be the Next Big Thing in tech? Hatter: One of the Next Big Things will be the evolution of IoT. Even though this field isn’t exactly new, and the “ecosystems” feeding the business models and technologies are still nascent, we can see them taking shape. Security and privacy are certainly “hot topics” in general, but both will play especially important roles in this evolving IoT market. We are fast approaching billions of connected devices—from Sync / 125

guest editor Q&A

DATA ACQUIRED “I’m a big fan of people who have engineering degrees and use that as a platform to then branch out to a range of fields. As a CIO, I’m constantly being exposed to new technologies.”

Facts and figures we learned from the tech leaders in this issue

1) 2) 3) is the 4th largest e-retailer

in the United States.

P. 23

drones to fitness wearables and cars to clothing. The effects of this will move multiple industries, giving new business opportunities to not only the big players that move fast enough, but opening room for new startups as well.

If you were asked to give a TED Talk, what would your topic be? Hatter: My topic would be “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I would talk about the value of taking roles that are outside of your comfort zone, because those will probably be the roles that enable you to learn the most and really expand your perspective. Whenever I have taken on those sorts of risks, it ended up being incredible learning and development experiences for me both personally and professionally.

Who do you admire most in your field? Hatter: Elon Musk. He’s such an incredible standout in taking big risks and moving forward with new and truly innovative ways to 126 / Sync

use technology. He has managed to accomplish what no one else has been able to in the technology field using an amazing combination of vision, technological skill, and business acumen. He’s a trailblazer at creating unique businesses, not just in one industry, but across very diverse industries.

The percentage of US small businesses using cloud computing is predicted to jump from the current

37% to almost 80% by 2020

according to consulting firm Emergent Research.

P. 68

What have you learned about yourself by taking on executive leadership roles? Hatter: I know that I love the process of defining a strategy for an organization, and then building a team that’s equally as excited about that vision. If you have both a great strategy and a great team, those are the two most important elements to build high performance that lasts. I’m not the kind of person who just puts an external façade on a team and hopes no one really looks “behind the curtain.” I think the fun part of work is being able to come up with a compelling vision for your organization, and form a team that is equally energized about that vision. With that, you’ll be able to achieve incredible things.

Talen Energy provides more than

15,000 megawatts

of generating capacity in Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Montana. It’s the fourth-largest supplier in the country.

P. 76

Netflix members around the world view

100 million hours of streaming content every day.

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Issue 005

inside the issue

LISTENING LIST Essential podcasts for the curious tech leader, curated by our editors and the executives featured in this issue


A tiny radio show about design with Roman Mars Radiotopia

“Roman is an amazing presenter, who somehow makes the very visual topic of design completely accessible through sound. Technologists have overlooked design for too long: Why does a TV remote carry ninety buttons when you only use five?” —NEIL HUNT, Netflix


Interviews with top executives about leadership and talent development OC Talk Radio Margie Rodino and Steve Goldberg episode

“Host Chris Dyer interviews top executives about leadership and talent development, and every week there is an intriguing guest who also gives me a great take-away. In this particular podcast, Steve Goldberg talks about how to leverage technology to resolve the problem of employee engagement, because based on recent studies, the majority of employees are disengaged with their current job.” —LINDSAY STANTON, Digi-Me


A show about the Internet


Professor of Mathematics Marcus du Sautoy reveals the personalities behind the calculations BBC Radio 4

“This podcast argues that mathematics is the driving force behind modern science. Listening to this podcast, I was inspired to question assumptions and look to build upon past accomplishments of others to achieve new things. Pushing the boundaries of EHR technology isn’t all that different than what these giants did for mathematics.” —LARRY ALLEN, Healthcare Network of South Florida


Trends, news, and the future of a world being shaped by technology Andreessen Horowitz

“From the venture capital heavyweights at Andreessen Horowitz—tagline: ‘software is eating the world’— comes a podcast about news, trends, and expert opinions in tech. Past guests have included New York Times technology and science writer John Markoff, the stars and producers of rap music biopic Straight Outta Compton, US Representatives, and a plethora of Silicon Valley startup CEOs. Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, as well as other partners at the VC firm, chime in often.” —Megan Bungeroth, Sync

Gimlet Media

“Gimlet Media, launched on the momentum of its Start Up podcast—which recorded the company’s journey from idea to fully-funded startup—produces this eclectic and delightful show. It’s ostensibly about the Internet, but is really about much more, as it explores the human consequences of online behavior. Expect touching stories about personal crusades to rid the web of criminals and hilarious deep dives on why federal government websites are so terrible. “ —Mary Delaware, Sync

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inner circle

INNER CIRCLE Meet the seasoned executives, intrepid entrepreneurs, and bold thinkers whose ideas shape this issue and address the promise of technology in the enterprise

LARRY ALLEN, P. 86 Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida VP of IT & CIO @LarryCIO Larry Allen is a Certified Healthcare CIO (CHCIO), a Certified Professional in Health Information Exchange (CPHIE), and Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security (CHPS). Allen is also an owner of Integral Quality Care, a health-care services provider.

GARY BAILEY, P. 20 Penn Virginia Corporation VP of IT Bailey has been working with computers since 1975, and he has served various companies in the oil and gas sector since 1982. He joined Penn Virginia Corporation in 2005.

IGOR BEKKER, P. 17 Alex and Ani VP of Digital Marketing & E-Commerce @igorbekker Bekker’s greatest strengths as an e-commerce leader are his marketing savvy and tech savvy— granting him the ability to sift through what’s a fad versus what has staying power. Before joining Alex and Ani, Bekker ran several fashion-focused storefronts during the eBay Marketplace’s nascent days.

STEFANO CONCINA, P. 42 Electro Scientific Industries Chief Technical Officer The Italian-born and Frencheducated executive leads by making himself a part of the team.

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In his background as a software engineer, Concina was frequently collaborating in teams, so he brings that perspective and mindset to his role as a leader.

BRAD COWLES, P. 56 HD Supply CIO After earning his BS and MS in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida, Cowles started his career with Michelin, where he held a variety of roles in design and quality—including one as a quality engineer in France— before leaving to join HD Supply in 2005.

ALAN FARNSWORTH, P. 62 Vnomics CEO Prior to joining Vnomics, Farnsworth spent 25 years at Bausch & Lomb in a variety of roles—including vice president of customer service and IT.

SCOTT GENG, P. 68 Egenera CTO & EVP @scottgeng Geng has more than twenty years of experience managing and designing software for missioncritical environments.

the US sales division for the company. After realizing the tremendous demand for a consultative approach to business telecommunications procurement, he founded Transit Broker.

LILI HALL, P. 31 KNOCK inc. Founder & CEO As the founder of a hybrid creative agency with a slew of retail clients, Hall insists that her staff have retail or hospitality experience on their resume. She regularly travels the world in search of the latest trends and tools in retail that she can bring back to her clients and team in Minneapolis.

NEIL HUNT, P. 116 Netflix Chief Product Officer Hunt joined Netflix in 1999 at the urging of cofounder Reed Hastings, with whom he had worked at Pure Software in the nineties, shifting from enterprise-software engineering to consumer business. Today Hunt leads the design, implementation, and operation of Netflix’s streaming technology.

GANJAR IMANSANTOSA, P. 28 Director of Information Security

EVAN M. GILLMAN, P. 72 Transit Broker LLC. Principal

Imansantosa got into IT as a hobby—having begun his career in financial auditing with Arthur Anderson. After joining a company incubator team, he’s never left the field—now concentrating on security consulting for retailers.

Gillman started his career working for Cogent Communications, a worldwide ISP. He continued at Peer 1, an international hosting provider, where he launched

PRIYA IYER, P. 60 Anaqua Former CEO

Priya Iyer has an extensive technology management background, including stints with, AT&T Bell Labs, and Westinghouse Tata. She was also senior vice president of operations and delivery at Steelpoint Technologies. In 2005, Iyer joined Anaqua as the company’s COO, becoming president in 2007, and CEO in 2009. Iyer departed the organization in mid-2015.

LONNE JAFFE, P. 52 Syncsort CEO @LonneJ Jaffe’s M&A and strategy experience at IBM and CA Technologies provided solid technology and business expertise for repositioning Syncsort again as a cutting-edge disruptor.

PAUL KARRAS, P. 38 Wilton Brands Senior VP & CIO Karras leads the arts-and-crafts giant’s technology function—from online shopping to tutorial videos. Experiences in financial services, telecommunications, and consumer products have prepared him to take on the varied responsibility of leading a usually analog past-time into the future.

CHRISTI LIEBE, P. 100 Rent-A-Center CTO Born in Germany, Liebe studied aerospace engineering and computer science and originally wanted to be an astronaut. She worked for TRW’s International Space Station projects before getting her MBA and moving on to management and technology

Issue 004 005

inner circle

roles at companies including Deloitte, Microsoft, U.S. Bancorp, and Disney.

FAISAL MASUD, P. 23 Staples EVP of Global E-Commerce @FaisMasud Masud joined Staples in 2013 following executive roles at eBay, Amazon, Groupon and Kozmo. com, a now-defunct venture capital-funded online delivery service. Masud has worked in all facets of digital and physical retail, from traffic generation to customer returns and everything in between.

JONATHAN MILLER, P. 82 J.D. Power & Associates CTO An electrical engineer by trade, Miller is helping the almost halfcentury old J.D. Power become a more data- and analytics-driven business.

JO ANN SAITTA, P. 12 The CDM Group Chief Digital Officer @j_saitta As Chief Digital Officer of The CDM Group, Jo Ann Saitta leads the development of commercial technology product lines. She is responsible for the advancement, expansion, and licensing of The CDM Group’s proprietary marketing software and data intelligence solutions. She brings more than twenty years of experience to the role, including Fortune 100 and mid-sized public firms in the biopharmaceutical and tech industries.

CHUCK SAMPLE, P. 96 US Foods VP of Insights & Analytics Just a couple years ago US Foods was being run as if it were stuck in the ‘90s, but by investing in Sample and in innovative analytics platforms, digital now drives all of the company’s growth. Sample has a background in loyalty and

marketing, which he uses to tailor data-driven solutions for US Foods customers.

JIM SCHINSKI, P. 76 Talen Energy SVP & Chief Administrative Officer Schinski brought experience working at another big utility before coming to Talen’s predecessor PPL in 2009; he also previously worked as the CIO at Lockheed Martin for 14 years.

WILL SCOTT, P. 90 Lextech President & Integrator Scott has been with Lextech for five years, and he is a self-described “mobile passionista.” He joined the company after having lunch with its CEO, Alex Bratton, and has helped launch Lextech into Inc.’s list of fastest growing companies.

SHANE SHAMLOO, P. 26 Solar SpeedRack President @SolarSpeedRack Shamloo is a serial entrepreneur who has launched over 40 business ventures in various industries, including 3-D printing, international trade, and, most recently, solar power. An Iranian immigrant who came to the United States to start a new life in the ‘70s, Shamloo’s most important business experience is in working his way up from the bottom.

SHAUN SMITH, P. 93 Phillips Edison & Company SVP & CIO Smith has maintained a lifelong affinity for technology, but it wasn’t until he enlisted in the military that a career in the field became a reality. He was transferred to an IT-functional area and he hasn’t looked back since. In 2010 he received the Realcomm 2010 Digie Award for “Best Use of Automation.”

LINDSAY STANTON, P. 78 Digi-Me Chief Client Officer Lindsay Stanton came out of university with a degree in political science—even working on policy at the City of Elgin before a love of technology brought her to work with digital recruiting firm Digi-Me. Today, when Stanton isn’t working, she’s advocating for animals in the Chicago suburbs, where she sits on a local shelter board and advises the organization on leveraging social media and technology to help more dogs and cats find homes.

JAMIE TRUJILLO, P. 49 Doss Aviation Inc. Director of IT Jamie Trujillo oversees Doss Aviation’s IT for the firm’s 500 employees who work at nineteen contract sites in thirteen different states, plus several overseas locations. Previous business development experience with the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation and AT&T bolster his goal of aligning IT with business.

TODD UNGER, P. 112 Daily Racing Form Chief Digital Officer @toddunger Todd Unger first entered the digital sphere working for America Online in 1997 and has since served in web-focused leadership positions for Lifetime Television, Major League Gaming, and more. He joined Daily Racing Form as chief digital officer in 2010.

present threat of cyberattacks and manages Caesars Entertainment’s security strategy and programs.

NEAL WRIGHT, P. 106 San Francisco Symphony CIO @nealbwright Because his dad worked in IT, the Texas native became interested in technology at a very early age. Ultimately, he decided to pursue mission-based technology, which led him into the nonprofit sector in 1998. Since then, he’s led IT for nonprofits in the environmental, health-care, and arts sectors. The highlight of his journey, however, was the six years he spent owning and operating his own yoga studio in San Francisco’s Mission District; open from 2001 until 2007, Mission Yoga was San Francisco’s largest yoga studio, and the third largest Bikram yoga studio in the world.

CASSANDRA YATES, P. 45 VivaKi Chief Talent Officer Cassandra Yates has an eye for helping others reach their potential, which she traces back to her time as a teacher in the Chicago Public School system. Yates received her Bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and later obtained a Master’s in Education from DePaul University. As VivaKi’s Chief Talent Officer, she manages the overall talent function, setting the strategy and overseeing all of its activities, employee programs, and initiatives.

WILLIAM WORTHINGTON, P. 121 Caesars Entertainment VP of Information Technology Security Worthington started in IT by managing call centers for Eli Lilly and Kraft. For four years, he worked as Wynn Las Vegas’ compliance manager before joining Caesars Entertainment as director of compliance and risk in 2012. In his current role, Worthington protects the company against the everSync / 129


“Robbers no longer need a gun and a getaway car; they just need a room and a computer.”

“You have to always be ambidextrous—thinking about the details of your internal organization but always paying attention to the changing external environment.”

“Choosing which technology to deploy is not the CIO’s decision. My job is to help all of the other senior management make informed decisions about that technology.”

“There are a lot of technology question marks in the arts right now. The possibilities are really exciting.”






Predictive analytics will transform marketing forever

Wearables + data = a healthier world

The State of Utah is using technology to bring government closer to the people

The promise and importance of diversity in tech

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Issue 005


Sync #05  
Sync #05  

Jan/Feb/Mar 2016. Big Ideas in Technology Leadership.