By Lauren Graves
With over 30 years of experience in the IT trenches, Larry Bonfante, Chief Information Officer at the United States Tennis Association is anything but a stereotypical “techie”. Larry has been acknowledged as a successful leader in the IT field by CIO Magazine and ComputerWorld and was recently nominated for the CIO Hall of Fame in 2013 for his focus on positioning the IT department to drive business results and become a critical business partner.
In a poll Argyle Executive Forum conducted at the Chicago CIO Leadership Forum last month, Argyle asked the CIO membership what they found to be a major challenge in their efforts to introduce innovative technologies to the business. Not to our surprise – 45% of the membership identified the lack of exceptional IT talent as the most significant challenge, with budgetary constraints following not far behind with a vote of 38%. Larry explains how he drives innovation by developing a sense of ownership and pride amongst the members of his IT team for the overall business strategy and vision of success.
“Half of what we save we invest in innovation and the other half we return to our CFO and drop to the bottom line.”
[Lauren Graves] The idea that the CIO should assume the position of Chief “Innovation” Officer is taking strong hold in most organizations. As the CIO of a not-for-profit enterprise, how do you secure funding for innovative initiatives? How do you motivate and encourage your team to think outside the normal IT parameters?
[Larry Bonfante] We identify operational savings from our IT budget. Half of what we save we invest in innovation and the other half we return to our CFO and drop to the bottom line. We motivate everyone on the team to feel a sense of ownership for our success and encourage each of them to come forward with creative ideas to pilot. We try to recognize both successful innovation as well as good ideas that didn’t pan out in order to keep the ideas coming.
As the CIO responsible for the world’s most highly attended annual sporting event, what has been your greatest challenge with respect to keeping up with the rapid advances in consumer technology?
Our biggest challenge is keeping up with the demand for network capacity. This is for both the free Wi-Fi we provide to our fans/patron who stream live video feeds of other matches being played on campus as well as access their US Open app on their smart phone. The number of concurrent Wi-Fi and mobile devices sessions has doubled every year and the demand for real time video streaming has grown exponentially
How has your relationship with colleagues across functions evolved in light of these changes? How are you collaborating to deliver the best customer experience possible?
We are a key collaborator in helping to develop the services required to deliver a world class fan & player experience.
What advice can you offer other CIOs so that they can position themselves as business leaders and enablers in the enterprise?
You need to focus on the human competencies required to transform an organization such as relationship management, change management, marketing, brand, partnering, etc. I focus on each of these key issues in my book Lessons in IT Transformation and in my workshops on these topics.
Larry Bonfante has held executive leadership positions over the past 30 years in the Financial, Pharmaceutical, Not for Profit, Consulting, and Sports and Entertainment industries. He has received numerous industry accolades including being nominated for the CIO Hall of Fame in 2013, being named as one of CIO Magazine’s CIO 100 in 2011 and one of Computerworld’s Premier 100 IT Leaders in 2009. As Chief Information Officer at the United States Tennis Association, Larry’s team is responsible for all information technology related services supporting the US Open, the most highly attended annual sporting event in the world. Larry is the founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC an executive coaching practice for IT executives and the author of the book “Lessons in IT Transformation” published by John Wiley & Sons. Larry has served as a mentor and executive coach for many IT leaders in various industries. He has served as both President and Chairman of the Fairfield-Westchester chapter of SIM and is a founding member of the CIO Executive Council. Larry has been a guest lecturer for the Masters’ Degree programs at Columbia University, NYU, and Polytechnic Institute. He is an accomplished public speaker who has delivered keynote presentations at many major industry conferences, runs leadership workshops for world class organizations and writes leadership blogs for both CIO Insight magazine and Enterprise Efficiency.