October 03, 2013

Many CIOs talk about thought leadership, but Oliver Bussmann may be the most accessible IT thought leader on the planet.

Recently donning the global CIO mantle at UBS, Bussmann made a name for himself in his previous position at SAP. There, his exceptional use of social media earned him industry recognition as the No. 1 Most Social CIO, according to Forbes.com.

With active accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, Bussmann regularly contributes to community commentary. His personal home page links to various sites for his bio, profile, presentations and news feeds. He also launched the externally facing CIO's blog at SAP.

"Communication behavior is in the middle of a sea change," Bussmann asserts. "By engaging through social media ... it makes barriers to reaching anyone, including me, very low.

"As a CIO," he continues, "embracing social media helps everyone else in the enterprise become motivated to engage [using social media tools] externally and internally. And it helps ensure IT no longer operates as a black box, which is very important."

But focusing solely on Bussmann's communication prowess misses the larger picture, for he's as shrewd with the bottom line as he is with sociability. Throughout his career at SAP and, before that, at Allianz and Deutsche Bank, Bussmann has always had his organizations operating efficiently -- frequently achieving double-digit cost-cutting goals.

He's also a master strategist. Where Bussmann once worked completely within the "IT as a cost center" paradigm, he now champions IT as a business enabler capable of driving revenues via innovation.

"A CIO can only be successful if there's a strong partnership and collaboration with the business," he says. Bussmann points to cloud computing as an example. "Cloud presents an opportunity for IT to drive innovation, but it also poses a threat because the business can partner with external sources and run applications itself," says Bussmann. "It's important for CIOs to embrace the cloud and IT's role as an integrator."

CIOs should determine how to put IT "in the driver's seat" as enterprises explore how best to utilize cloud technologies, Bussmann adds. "When IT is not in the driver's seat, its value is diminished," he says.

Valley Of Innovation

One way Bussmann ensures that his organization makes the best of innovation is by staying in contact with San Francisco Bay Area venture capitalists to monitor the latest technologies coming out of Silicon Valley.

"The challenge goes beyond understanding the megatrends and leveraging them for the business," says Bussmann. "It's also seeing how the megatrends are interconnected. Then finding the right combination, in partnership with the business, is absolutely critical for success."

In 2012, Bussmann, who was still at SAP, received a call to discuss a job at UBS, which wanted to transform its organization to be more innovative, collaborative and cost-effective. He joined UBS on June 1 of this year.

Aligning the UBS culture with his IT philosophy is a key focus for Bussmann. "Setting up a culture that brings innovation closer to the business is one of my priorities," he says.

However, as Bussmann points out, "innovation" and "disruptive technologies" can be very abstract concepts. "Therefore, in the working environment, it's important to establish hands-on ways for people to explore and learn about a given technology," he says.