The Top 20 Most Innovative Midmarket CIOs

Innovation Leads To Overall Success

XChange Events and the Midsize Enterprise Summit are launching this list of the Top 20 Most Innovative Midmarket CIOs put a spotlight on the elite IT leaders using technology to drive one of the most important segments in the today's market.

Applications were open to CIOs, line-of-business managers, vendors, IT integrators and service providers looking to showcase a successful IT project that helped a business grow, gain a competitive edge and/or achieve breakthrough results as a result of the CIO's efforts. The IT solutions deployed by the listed CIOs within the past year achieved one or more of the following: a proven positive impact, cost savings; an improved infrastructure and/or systems; and/or an overall positive transformation of the way users work.

Scott Bravi, CIO, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Industry: International law

Challenge: A major defense contractor client was looking to better manage its risk of exposure, automate a highly manual process and save time.

Innovation: Bravi and his team developed an IT solution that allowed data to be analyzed in real time, which allowed the legal services team to track and respond to potential issues quickly while also reporting up-to-the minute progress to help minimize exposure risks.

ROI: The solution helped the firm gain a strong competitive advantage, increased revenue from the client by 50 percent, boosted client engagement and provided faster process and reduced exposure.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Microsoft

Branndon Kelley, CIO, American Municipal Power

Industry: Energy and natural resources

Challenge: Many of the company's departments were struggling to find a single source of company data and a reliable system with better accuracy.

Innovation: Kelley undertook multiple projects and virtualized 95 percent of the company's infrastructure. Projects included coordinating a new data center build-out; replacing an aging enterprise architecture; and implementing a change-management process, an enterprise backup and data archiving system, and a mobile device strategy.

ROI: The results led to a more reliable system with an application uptime increase of more than 10 percent, and the virtualization revamp saved costs related to physical space and power. The new intrusion prevention system has blocked more than 4,300 attacks since implementation.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Open Systems International, PrimeStone, Microsoft, Cisco, EMC, Avaya, CommVault, Oracle

Kevin Pashuk, CIO, Appleby College

Industry: Education

Challenge: Teachers were facing a number of challenges in the classroom. A few would incorporate collaborative technologies into the learning environment, but the setup time and the requirement to use multiple applications for video, screen capture and sharing between devices was too complex.

Innovation: Pashuk and his team, utilizing a version of Agile development methodology, created a process to automatically generate a class notebook using the schedule and user information in the Student Information System (SIS).

ROI: More than 80 percent of the faculty moved their classwork to the new system within the first month, and departments that had been nominal users of 1:1 technology (music, physical education etc.) are now some of the most active users.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Microsoft, Cisco, Palo Alto Networks

Param Bedi, VP Library and Information Technology, Bucknell University

Industry: Education

Challenge: Data management at Bucknell was a decentralized practice that accessed and manipulated data in a transactional environment, which was both inefficient and subject to data integrity risks.

Innovation: The Bucknell University Intelligence project started with the vision of improved and consistent access to university information. The team developed a strategy to improve how the Bucknell community accesses, shares, and uses data and analytics.

ROI: Bucknell now has more than 25 key administrators trained and beginning to access student data in the data warehouse via a new open access model. For the first time, student data "snapshots" have been established for point-in-time, period over period, comparative analytics on metrics such as retention rates and registration counts.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Ellucian, IBM, Oracle

Marty Miller, CIO, Children's Hospital of Los Angeles

Industry: Nonprofit, health care

Challenge: There weren't any products that satisfied the requirements of the hospital's Physicians Portal, which is a platform that allows community physicians to access their patients' information.

Innovation: Miller led the hospital's internal development team in building a Cloud-based platform with a native Mobile App. It built the first Children's Hospital Los Angeles mobile app.​

ROI: The platform was developed on budget, on time, and met customized needs while retaining knowledge of the app and its requirements in house for future scalability and robustness.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Microsoft, Duo Security

Gregg Oosterbaan, VP, Technology Services, Columbus Zoo And Aquarium

Industry: Nonprofit, recreation and conservation

Challenge: Because it has experienced significant growth in recent years, hosting nearly 1.9 million visitors per year, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium needed data standards and improved analytics capabilities with a tight nonprofit budget.

Innovation: Oosterbaan and his team worked with Information Builders to execute a data reporting initiative on Information Builders' WebFocus platform. The project brought enterprise reporting to the IT department's infrastructure and unified the way in which the zoo's departments organize and collect data.

ROI: The overall impact was better organizational performance, increased revenue and growth of a data-driven culture—all of which allow the zoo to better achieve its mission of leading and inspiring education and conservation through connecting people and wildlife.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Information Builders

Tamara Barr, IS Vice President/CIO, Continental Mills

Industry: Consumer/manufactured goods

Challenge: Rapid change over the past year caused a dramatic increase in company size, staff and complexity. To support this growth, implementing new ways of managing data without adding resources was critical.

Innovation: A cross-functional team implemented a business intelligence and analysis application that is now used extensively by many. The project fulfilled the goal of having a tool that provides accurate, real-time business information that allows users to make better decisions by quickly analyzing data.

ROI: Business teams now have a robust mobile-enabled end user-controlled environment that allows for quick analysis of business questions, and is driving better business results and facilitating growth. It was able to retire several applications that required significant time on a daily basis for regular upkeep and maintenance.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Microsoft, Tableau Software, Decision Path Consulting

Mike Kozak, CTO, Computer Resources of America (CRA)

Industry: IT support and services

Challenge: CRA needed a platform that allowed integration and practical application for its current and future client base, which extends over a wide array of verticals, IT budgets and standards of service, while remaining cost-effective for the client and CRA as the provider.

Innovation: Kozak spearheaded the development of CRA's infrastructure platform with a hardened solutions stack, which created a virtualized environment to build and develop solutions for clients, seamlessly translate those solutions into live client application, and allow CRA to extend an offering of private and hybrid cloud solutionsl.

ROI: CRA is now able to better serve its current client base and offers a more robust offering to potential clients. The platform allows CRA to offer small and medium businesses enterprise-class infrastructure at a price they can afford.

Solution provider/vendor partners: VMware, HP, Lefthand, Fujitsu, Drobo, Watchguard

Mark Kondrak, CIO, Hamline University

Industry: Education

Challenge: Hamline's student and faculty communities were on disparate platforms for email and calendars, which created a lack of a uniformity, coordination, efficiency and collaboration.

Innovation: Kondrak and his team moved the entire community onto a single and integrated cloud-based collaboration platform, starting with, but not limited to, email and enterprise calendaring services via a massive Google deployment.

ROI: The university has saved money removing the maintenance costs of legacy enterprise calendar systems and is no longer constrained by its system, which has liberated its community and fostered universitywide collaboration.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Google, Agosto, Concensus Technologies, Spanning

Steve Hammond, CIO, Kichler Lighting

Industry: Consumer/manufactured goods

Challenge: The tremendous expense of maintaining the company's ERP system yielded little value to the organization.

Innovation: Hammond replaced a poorly functioning and extremely expensive ERP system with a new one system that proved to be easier and less costly to maintain.

ROI: A minimum of $1 million has been saved annually.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Epicor, RateLinx Shipping Solution

Paul Furtado, IT Director, Lone Wolf Real Estate Technologies

Industry: Real estate

Challenge: Lone Wolf needed to improve the performance of its back-end databases that populated its Web server farm, as it was starting to notice a slowdown in providing listing data to franchises, brokerages and the general public.

Innovation: Furtado and his team used a combination of hardware and software including Dell PowerEdge servers, Microsoft SQL 2012 Enterprise, and Fusion-IO flash memory cards.

ROI: There was an 800 percent improvement in access and processing speed, which has scaled up the company's environment, drove down costs for data center space and power, and has improved customer experience and satisfaction.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Dell, Pythian

Michael Skaff, VP, Technology, Masons of California

Industry: Nonprofit

Challenge: The organization's platform was inflexible, limited in functionality, and not mobile-enabled.

Innovation: Skaff identified and implemented a consolidated online donation platform for members. A new content management interface simplifies ongoing management and maintenance of the donation campaigns and associated pages.

ROI: The result was the delivery of a very agile and streamlined platform that meets the needs of both the donating members as well as the team engaged in supporting the campaigns. It is also less expensive than the previous platform.

Solution provider/vendor partners: WebConnex

Dale Phillips, CIO, MCPc

Industry: Technology consultancy and integration

Challenge: Many tasks throughout the organization were either not being done or were being done slowly, in part because of the onerous nature of multiple IT systems, which lacked cohesion and communication capabilities.

Innovation: Phillips implemented a holistic data mining, tracking and prediction CRM system solution across every department of MCPc. This system was more than a simple sales tracker and impacted every department.

ROI: By tying in a diverse set of systems to one data vehicle, Phillips led a transformative cultural shift that has enabled profitability across MCPc as revenue increased more than 9 percent year-over-year. There has been a significant increase in overall operational efficiency as well.

Solution provider/vendor partners: ConnectWise, Quosal

Aaron Geiger, CIO, Murphy Co.

Industry: Construction

Challenge: Murphy Company's ERP system provided a powerful assets/products costing and tracking module but was lacking automation. The manual entering of data was time-consuming and prone to errors.

Innovation: Geiger and his team designed an automated tool tracking and processing system called MurphyTrack, which fully integrates with its PENTA ERP system. The MurphyTrack system, which was developed in partnership with BravePoint, utilizes iPads with Bluetooth scanners for the warehouse personnel.

ROI:. Automation has reduced errors, increased speed and flexibility, improved accuracy and streamlined processes.

Solution provider/vendor partners: BravePoint Technologies

Dan Karam, CIO, Muy

Industry: Restaurant/food

Challenge: Muy's growth required a way to control costs as it manages the expansion of its retail restaurant locations. It also needed to create a call center to take orders.

Innovation: Karam led the move to Star2Star's scalable cloud communications, which moved systems to VoIP and included the creation of a contact center that leveraged the platform.

ROI: Beyond substantial cost savings, the solution has allowed the restaurant to increase its business volume by 40 percent during peak periods without adding additional stores or personnel.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Star2Star, Interface Security Systems

Rita Lazar-Tippe, Director, Business Technology, Northlands

Industry: Entertainment, media and publishing

Challenge: With a short turnaround time to launch a new event, it was challenging to research and find local innovative companies and individuals that align with the event's objective of showcasing emerging and innovative technology.

Innovation: Lazar-Tippe is leading from concept to execution the Northlands 10-day summer fair, which typically draws more than 780,000 attendees. She is aligning technology efforts to support and enhance the event.

ROI: Increased fair attendance, attraction of targeted demographics, future partnerships with local and national organizations, and increased revenue.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Samsung, LG, Phillips, local start-up and incubator organizations: Startup Edmonton, TEC Edmonton, Alberta Innovates, Edmonton Research Park and NABI

Niel Nickolaisen, CTO, OC Tanner

Industry: Business/professional services

Challenge: During Nickolaisen's previous role as CIO of Western Governors University, the university faced challenges with its competency-based educational model in that it made it difficult to get remote, self-paced students the help they needed. The university also wanted to increase and track graduation rates and student status.

Innovation: Nickolaisen led a project that developed a student engagement analytics system by developing new technologies, experimenting with new processes, and changing the university's culture. The new system successfully created the ability to identify which students need help, what help they need and when they need the help.

ROI: WGU now has a set of predictive models to help it make admissions decisions, saving it time and money, and significantly increasing student retention and graduation rates. Student retention increased 10 percent with the majority of that increase happening among the at-risk students.

Solution provider/vendor partners: IBM Cognos, Hadoop, Cassandra, Pure Predictive, Talend

Vennard Wright, CIO, Prince George's County Government

Industry: Government

Challenge: Gaining support from a number of different public sector entities.

Innovation: Wright created a program called Tech Prince George's, which focuses on cultivating high achievers in technology through partnerships among private industry, educational institutions and government. He provided technology, industry expertise and pilot programs to Bowie State University and the Prince George's County Public School System at no cost to provide a hands-on experience.

ROI: As a result of the implementation, Bowie State University was able to save almost $500,000 in annual SAP support costs because it leveraged students to make configuration changes to the county's ERP system.

Solution provider/vendor partners: Cisco, SAP, Lockheed Martin

Linda Reid, CIO, Rotech Healthcare

Industry: Health care/hospitals

Challenge: Rotech was using a legacy green-screen application that was decentralized, manual, without imaging or printing, and lacking integration.

Innovation: Reid was the architect and visionary for building the enterprise-level, Web-based order fulfillment and user-friendly tracking system called eIntake. It automated many manual processes, as well as transitioned the company to a paper-less electronic workflow. This included a very aggressive and successful rollout to 400-plus U.S. locations in five months.

ROI: The automation features resulted in an ROI of millions of dollars, reducing labor costs, adjustments and denials and operating costs, while boosting revenue and cash flow.

Solution provider/vendor partners: The eIntake system was developed completely by in-house and without the help of vendors. The team consisted of 11 developers, four business analysts, one system administrator and one database administrator.

Paul Harder, Director, Technology and Security, The Arc Greater Twin Cities

Industry: Nonprofit/charity

Challenge: Arc is a consumer of more than 100,000 volunteer hours per year and all of the volunteer management was performed by hand.

Innovation: Harder and his team developed an online volunteer scheduler portal, which now allows groups and individuals to sign up for volunteer shifts at one of the Arc's Value Village stores or at The Arc Greater Twin Cities.

ROI: The project enabled volunteers to be more creative in volunteer management, having much more time to actually manage rather than "push paper." This project also allowed for volunteer check-in/out on a tablet rather than signatures, which has freed up time with data entry staff and vastly reduced errors due to unreadable handwriting.

Solution provider/vendor partners: PC Connection, Civicore