In a Fireside Chat, Melorie Acevedo, VP of Information Technology at the San Francisco Chronicle, sat down with Bruce Schinelli, Chief Information Officer and Vice President, TTX Company, to discuss IT as innovation.
At the 2016 Chief Information Officer Leadership Forum held in San Francisco on February 18, Melorie Acevedo interviewed Bruce Schinelli, who has had two extended tenures in railroad freight as well as in several other industries. “Tell us your views,” she asked, “on innovation and the ‘business versus IT’ mindset.”
Schinelli responded that last year “the Wall Street Journal changed the name of its second section from Marketplace to Business and Technology, explaining that there’s no difference anymore between business and technology.” The world has moved on from the idea that IT was somehow separate from the business. IT no longer has to worry about relevance.
“The Wall Street Journal changed the name of its second section from Marketplace to Business And Technology, explaining that there’s no difference anymore between business and technology.”
Acevedo asked about cost and budget pressures in an IT organization. The IT executive, Schinelli responded, like anyone else, is always trying to provide more value for less money. “Uniquely for us in IT, in services and software and especially in hardware, we’ve seen dramatic cost reductions over time. So, I’m always thinking about doing things that are commodities at the lowest price point that I can.” Protecting budget share, or squares on a budget sheet, aren’t a productive use of time for the IT executive.
“Uniquely for us in IT, in services and software and especially in hardware, we’ve seen dramatic cost reductions over time. So, I’m always thinking about doing things that are commodities at the lowest price point that I can.”
Then Acevedo asked Schinelli to reflect on his experience of taking mainframe technology to open source at TTX. “We started moving to SequelServer.net in 2009 and turned off our last mainframe in 2011. It was a bloody struggle—a long transition.” When asked about the personnel implications of this transformation, Schinelli talked about everybody fitting into one of four groups. “Some people have the right attitude and the right skills. That’s an easy group—they have seats on the bus.” The opposite is also an easy group to work with. “The hardest personnel to work with are people with good attitudes but not the skills, and people who have the skills but like things the way they are.” Ultimately, the people implications depend on your strategy, which can be rough. “We did a lot of it through outsourcing.”
“Some people have the right attitude and the right skills. That’s an easy group—they have seats on the bus. The hardest personnel to work with are people with good attitudes but not the skills, and people who have the skills but like things the way they are.”
Acevedo then asked about buy-in from the C-suite, especially in a legacy industry like freight rail, which clearly is not Cloud-born. “Most CEOs just want IT to work well, reliably, and with few complaints. Saving money also helps a lot. If you can deliver that, you can do whatever you want.”
Was there any advice, Acevedo asked, on how to be a good IT innovator? “Read the paper,” was Schinelli’s first response. “If you’re going to be a business leader, you must be reading what your peers are reading.” Also, look to industry journals to find new trends. That’s where your knowledge has to be.
Schinelli ended with some thoughts about what innovation means in 2016. “Innovation is an overused word,” he said. “Much of it we’d call little efficiencies and increased effectiveness. Real, left-field, blue-sky innovation is hard to capture. If we knew what it was, we’d all have billion-dollar companies. In other words, if you stop looking for it, you might find it.”
ABOUT BRUCE SCHINELLI:
Since joining TTX as the VP of IT and CIO in late 2006, Bruce led TTX through a six-year program to reengineer and refresh all aspects of Information Technology serving its business and its customers, while changing the culture and perception of IT. Leveraging this transformation, Bruce has continued to lead TTX through technology and business transformation, introducing mobile business services and analytics in both operational systems and systems of innovation that directly drive TTX’s strategic value to the rail industry. Prior to joining TTX, Bruce led the strategic development of computer systems for several of the businesses within Wachovia Investment Bank including their railroad fleet and held various positions providing data science and analytics in the U.S. Air Force and the AAR. He holds an M.S. in Operations Research from AFIT and a B.S. in Economics from the United States Air Force Academy.
ABOUT MELORIE ACEVEDO:
As the Vice President of Information Technology at the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate, Melorie has led the efforts to streamline operations with multiple strategic outsource partners and the continuation of transformation initiatives at a modern media organization. The San Francisco Chronicle, owned by Hearst, has a strong commitment to journalism and telling the rich story of San Francisco for the last 151 years. SFGate is one of the first newspaper websites. Founded over 22 years ago, it reaches over 22 million readers a month.
While Melorie is responsible for a wide variety of technology needs, her most impactful project was a three-year data center consolidation and the refreshing of all key technologies into a Hybrid Cloud model, completely evacuating the on-premise data center in San Francisco.
Currently, she is actively leading efforts to build upon a digital signage effort with IPTV, replace the network core, modernize disaster recovery programs, and lead technical facility renovations planned for later in 2016.
Melorie has recently completed her MBA, 100% online, at Marylhurst University while simultaneously leading the technology efforts at the Chronicle. The emphasis of her MBA was Green Information Technology. Using technology to benefit the triple bottom line and improve profits, people, and the planet is a continued focus of her efforts.
Melorie is actively involved with several nonprofit organizations including the Office of the CIO, Dress for Success, the One Love Foundation, and Conscious Capitalism. She is passionate about using technology to make the world a better place through global, social, and mobile movements.