USTA CIO: IT Executives Now Act As Business Advisors Driving Revenue

That was the message from U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) CIO Larry Bonfante, the author of Lessons In IT Transformation, in a frank discussion of how the role of the CIO has changed in the cloud computing services era at the BoB (Best of Breed) conference. The three-day conference, being held at the exclusive St. Regis resort in Dana Point, Calif. is a gathering of 150 solution provider CEO thought leaders establishing new cloud computing business models.

"Being an efficient IT (information technology) services provider is not enough," said Bonfante, who oversees all the IT operations for the association including the annual U.S. Open Tennis tournament. "We need to find ways to contribute to top line revenue."

That's just what Bonfante has done at the USTA, bringing game changing new services that are driving top line growth for the association, including a video digitization of great moments in U.S. Open tournament history that is driving hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue each year.

What's more, the USTA IT team has also delivered a security application for the tournament that provided scanned access control to the grounds. That $50,000 investment provided the tournament with the exact number of people on the grounds assuring compliance with fire department crowd control regulations and opening the door for an annual $1.5 million increase in ticket sales. "How happy do you think my board was with that (security application)?" Bonfante asked the crowd of IT providers.

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Bonfante said it was not his solution provider partners that came up with those revenue generating ideas, but those partners did play a role in helping the USTA execute those initiatives.

"What has changed in a word is everything," said Bonfante. "The expectations placed on CIOs by the board of directors and CEO are greater than it has ever been."

The one-time measure of success for CIOs used to be how big their IT staff and annual IT budget was, said Bonfante. Today that kind of bloated staffing and budget is a one-way ticket to the unemployment line, he said.

"The role of IT is less of a utility provider of (IT) service and more of a trusted advisor and consultancy that understands business and how to drive value," said Bonfante. If CIOs are simply acting as IT utility service providers, they are going to be in "trouble down the road," he said.

"Moving forward it is less about being a technologist and more about being a busines enabler," said Bonfante. "No one has to understand the business better and have as broad a reach -- besides the CEO -- than the CIO."