The Era of the IT Executive: 25 CIOs Speak Their Minds

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Jim Umphrey

AdvancePierre Foods

How do you correlate business risk back to IT?

Business risk correlating with what IT is doing right now is trying to get as much information as we can because our true facility operations within the manufacturing business unit is requiring more information. So IT is becoming in line with them to help assist the risk factors to add capacity to a plant versus building or purchasing another plant. We have people that play different roles. There is a huge value add when you start utilizing a true information processing system. To have IT drive that or sell that to help them mitigate risk during manufacturing or even getting their raw materials together to minimize waste is a plus. Another aspect is that we are looking to do organic growth as opposed to acquisitions: Where can IT assist for the information they need to know that this is a viable, organic growth path for some of our product lines. 

How do you bring IT beyond the transactional relationship with your business leaders?

I come with a background where IT is like the maintenance department, but you want to become more proactive than reactive. You want to handle the break/fix relationship, but fix it before it breaks is better. IT, in history, has been the maintenance department from the beginning, but if you build the team right and have the right resources and focuses, all of a sudden we can become a tremendous asset to the company. That’s what we have been working on in the past five years. I hate being reactive; I love being proactive. I am assisting the IT towers to become more centric in the business. A piece of hardware or software may not always fix things, yet our project management tower has enough IT knowledge that we can help you with a process. It may not require IT intervention, but we have the knowledge. We put our project management office in the meeting and they might have suggestions to overcome the hurdle for a piece of hardware/software.

I left data processing 20 years ago. Now it’s information technologies. We’re not transactional per se. Our systems are, but we are not even hardcore in our systems. Our users are the superusers now. IT is not so much anymore. We have a few because we want to give guides in the right places, but we are not in constant battles over a database. We may help you out with a small program that got screwed up, but others can get in there and fix it. We will assist you to fix it, but we didn’t break it. I don’t look at IT as transactional anymore. People come to me wanting solutions. We come up with the solutions and that’s what I like to be able to present to our customers. 

How do you lead your teams through change?

There is lots of change, whether it’s from the priorities of today being changed tomorrow due to something we didn’t have the vision to see or the knowledge that has not been told yet, whether from organizational changes or promotions. I always try to tell everybody that your time is coming. If you cannot accept change, then you’re in the wrong industry. When you say yes to IT it’s 365, 24/7. I set the expectation that change is part of all this. Who wants to be a part of it and who wants to lead it? You have to embrace change or you won’t make it very long.

 

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The Era of the IT Executive: 25 CIOs Speak Their Minds

22 of 27

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