Last month I wrote a post in which I asked whether "gearhead" CIOs are a vanishing species. I don't know that I've ever spoken to a CIO I'd consider a gearhead. That's not to say they aren't out there; I just haven't encountered any. Many of the CIOs I've interviewed are what I'd consider anti-gearheads. I cited several examples in my post, including Norton Healthcare CIO Joseph De Venuto.
My latest CIO interview, the USO's Tim Kobosko, continues my string of anti-gearheads. As the USO's first-ever CIO, Kobosko faces some formidable challenges. He's well positioned to tackle them, however, as he is a member of the senior management team reporting directly to the organization's president. He told me:
I participate in all of the management and board meetings. I'm engaged with business decisions, and I think I'm viewed as a business leader before I'm viewed as a technology leader.
Like the subjects of my other CIO Conversations interviews, Kobosko has degrees in both business and technology. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy, a Master of Administrative Science from Johns Hopkins University and an MBA from Loyola College.
In his first nine months on the job, Kobosko says he's worked hard to reverse the IT organization's reactive mind set and get his team more in tune with the organization's long-term strategic goals. At staff meetings, he and IT staff spend more time discussing strategic initiatives like Operation Enduring Care, a $100 million project to open family support centers for families of injured troops, than day-to-day operational issues. "We even go through the annual reports so everybody understands what we are doing," he says.
The key in getting IT staff engaged with broader business goals is to involve them in projects where they can make clear contributions, Kobosko says. For instance, his team is now looking at ways to enhance the USO's long-term involvement in offering entertainment to troops. An idea currently being considered is streaming concerts to soldiers' family members so they can "attend" them virtually with their troops.