Former CIO Superstar Kurt Schnieders Is Now Upping Advizex’s Services Game

“You see more CIOs being displaced right now because they can’t run fast enough,” said Advizex Chief Operating Officer Kurt Schnieders, who has overseen high risk IT projects at L Brands and Dick’s Sporting Goods. “They don’t know how to run fast enough or they won’t bring in someone to help them. Businesses have no choice but to run fast today, and IT is not running fast enough..”


Advizex Chief Operating Officer Kurt Schnieders knows deep down in his bones the pressure and pitfalls CIOs are facing as they mount digital transformation makeovers in the midst of the pandemic.

That’s because Schnieders, a onetime superstar CIO for retail giants like L Brands and Dick’s Sporting Goods, has overseen high-risk IT projects with literally hundreds of millions of dollars riding on the success or failure of those IT initiatives.

Over the course of a 38-year career navigating massive technology changes for businesses including complex e-commerce projects, Schnieders has seen first-hand how critical a strong technology partner like Advizex is to succeeding in a fast-moving technology market.

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[RELATED: Advizex President C.R. Howdyshell Is Driving An Everything-As-A-Service Revolution]

“You see more CIOs being displaced right now because they can’t run fast enough,” he said. “They don’t know how to run fast enough or they won’t bring in someone to help them. Businesses have no choice but to run fast today, and IT is not running fast enough. In 38 years in the technology business, the last five years have been the most compelling in terms of the speed and adoption of technology as a business enabler.”

After making his mark driving big technology transformation in the intensely competitive retail business, Schnieders spent several years as a technology consultant before he was convinced to help drive a customer-focused Everything-as-a-Service transformation at Advizex by President C.R. Howdyshell.

“I was an Advizex customer at both L Brands and Dick’s Sporting Goods,” said Schnieders. “I have known C.R. for 20 years. It is a working relationship, but it is also a personal relationship. I call him the ‘mayor’ because he knows everybody. He is good at what he does and he genuinely cares about people. He is a guy whose handshake means something.”

That’s no small matter in a business where so much is riding on delivering on cloud and digital transformation projects, said Schnieders.

“If something is not right, Advizex makes it right,” he said. “As a CIO, I worked with many vendors on many projects over the years. Very few of them ever go perfectly. But if you react and respond appropriately and bring the right resource in to make it right, then it is a win. That is something I have always valued about Advizex.”

Since taking on the Advizex COO role 15 months ago, Schnieders has been a driving force behind its Everything-as-a-Service transformation. He has helped drive strategic technology discussions with CIOs, CSOs and CEOs that are paying off in a sharp increase in Advizex managed services sales.

Thought Leadership On Cloud And Consumption

“You have to be able to engage at a higher level with a business conversation where you bring in thought leadership around cloud and consumption,” Schnieders said. “People talk about it but they don’t really understand it. I have had so many conversations where CIOs tell me they have a cloud-first strategy. But you need to find out what they are trying to accomplish. Are they trying to avoid capital purchases? Do they need to upgrade their infrastructure and don’t have the budget? Do they want to get out of the infrastructure business? Nobody has the same story. There are many different elements and depending on the problem there could be a very different set of possibilities. This isn’t about the technology. We are here to solve business problems.”

Solving business problems means helping CIOs deliver digital transformation with consumption-based solutions, said Schnieders. “With COVID and everything that has happened over the last two years, companies have had to cut back on their head count and pivot so they can react very, very quickly to the new demands being placed on the business,” he said. “They are not making the long-term capital bets they used to. They are not going to make a five-year capitalized purchase. It is too long and it is too much money.”

Consumption-based IT models have matured to the point they are ready for prime time, said Schnieders. “These consumption models are for real,” he said. “We are seeing more and more companies moving to it. And when you want to move into a cloud environment, the two go hand in hand. The last thing in the world companies want to do right now is make an investment in a back-of-house resource.”

That has opened up a big opportunity for Advizex to provide IT infrastructure in an Everything-as-a-Service pay-per-use offering for customers under a single monthly bill. “IT infrastructure is interesting to no one but an infrastructure IT specialist,” said Schnieders. “You need to have it, but it is like air conditioning and heating. You expect it to work. But if you go into a boardroom and talk about a controller or a switch, eyes start rolling back. The thing that I have learned time and time again over the years is it’s not about the technology. It has never been about the technology. We are solving business problems. You need to go in and understand the business problems the customer is facing and then bring technology solutions that help them to be successful.”

The pandemic has also changed the technology landscape, driving work-at-home, remote education and telehealth solutions that would have never been embraced if not for the health crises, said Schnieders. Advizex has stepped up to help customers in each of those markets embrace the new IT solutions landscape, he said.

Adapting To The Pandemic: The New IT Landscape

“The IT world has dramatically changed in the last two years and it is never going back,” said Schnieders. “It’s been really, really positive when you look at how businesses have adopted new technology to deal with the pandemic. Retailers are doing curbside pickup. School systems are supporting remote students. Doctors and clinicians are logging in from satellite locations to access patient records across distributed networks with HIPAA requirements. We helped facilitate those solutions for customers that didn’t have the infrastructure or mechanisms to support these new solutions.”

Schnieders has brought Advizex an insider CIO perspective that is driving services wins, said Advizex Vice President Dave Gibbons, who worked with Schnieders as a customer of Advizex. “He knows the hot buttons and what makes a difference for CIOs,” he said.

In addition to Schnieders, Advizex has brought in a number of management-level IT executives who have done complex services engagements, said Gibbons. “These are executives that know the issues that come up with tough services implementations in areas like automation, orchestration, disaster recovery and business continuity,” he said. “As a company that puts us one or two steps ahead of competitors. When we demonstrate that to customers, their confidence level goes through the roof. We have people that have made these implementations happen in big organizations.”

Schnieders said he has been heartened by the number of customers embracing the Advizex Everything-as-a-Service offering. Two key indicators of the company’s success: a 94 percent services retention rate and a 94 percent Net Promoter Score for services. “We are getting solid scores on our work and we have gained a lot of trust with customers,” he said. “We have built some really solid relationships. It is the people and relationships that make up our business. We have customers that have been working with us for 20 to 30 years. With that kind of repeat business, it is more than just a business relationship. You develop friendships.”

As he looks to the Advizex Everything-as-a-Service future, Schnieders said he could not be more optimistic. “Customers want out of IT infrastructure, they need to run faster and they don’t have the people to do it,” he said. “There has never been a more compelling time for IT service providers like Advizex. Customers are capital-constrained, people-constrained, and have incredible IT needs. It is up to us to have intelligent conversations with those customers and bring them the IT value that helps them achieve their goals.”