Austin Adams, corporate chief information officer and executive VP, JPMorgan Chase, has been a CIO for 20 years and has been in the securities industry for 35 years. Perhaps his fellow CIOs could learn a thing or two from his experiences. In his keynote address at the SIA Technology Management Conference, he shared many and offered some words of wisdom for his fellow techies.
First and foremost, he said, "We need to do a better job of investing strategically. We need to do a better job of understanding the business and understanding how technologists can help the business decision makers understand the value of more strategic investments." Money shouldn't be thrown at the next hot trend or hot technology every time the tides change. Rather, a more strategic approach is necessary for a successful organization, he implored.
Adams' second tip was that targeted technology investments need better management. In the past, the business side believed that technology dollars were being invested without enough thought. As examples, Adams cited projects such as customer relationship management initiatives that went awry. How can the industry do this? Adams suggested using a more stringent approval process and rigorously adhering to it.
CIOs also must focus on reducing operating costs. Adams added that the solution is not simply outsourcing to India or China. "I think it's broader - it's about consistency and efficiency of tools," he noted. He said that one of the solutions is "singularity of operations systems." JPMorgan Chase is the product of many acquisitions and therefore it has many redundant legacy systems that can be consolidated. He suggested getting rid of many duplicative legacy systems in favor of leveraging one system across the firm.
In addition, responding to regulatory changes is essential for every CIO. And a successful CIO should use this as an opportunity for growth by leveraging new systems and processes for the company's benefit. He pointed to a new credit-risk initiative that is being created at JPMorgan as a result of responding to Basel II.
Strengthening internal controls also is imperative. To accomplish this, JPMorgan Chase is restructuring its risk and resiliency units, a move that was prompted by an assessment of firmwide resiliency costs -- a figure Adams wouldn't disclose.
Adams' last bit of advice? Learn to say, "No." He recounted the two things he gets complaints about from the executive management team most -- questions about day-to-day performance and why systems are down; and, "Austin, why did you let us do that?"
If there is anything Adams has learned during his career as a CIO, he said, it's that as a leader of the technology group and a liaison to the business, you have to be able "to get up in their face" and tell them when they're about to do something "stupid."