Thought Leadership

CIO of the Year

The Oracle Excellence Awards include the CIO of the Year awards for global leaders demonstrating outstanding performance and vision in the role of chief information officer of an enterprise that uses Oracle products and services.

By David A. Kelly

January/February 2013

Seiji Nishikawa


Communication infrastructures support tens of millions of devices and drive new business initiatives at giant telecom.
Winner Specs
Name: Seiji Nishikawa
Job title: Executive vice president and CIO
Company: NTT Docomo
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Award: CIO of the Year—Japan, 2012

For Seiji Nishikawa, executive vice president and CIO of Japan’s NTT Docomo telecommunications company and winner of the Oracle Excellence Award for CIO of the Year—Japan, being a good CIO requires more than just technical knowledge. It also requires fearlessness.

“CIOs need a thorough knowledge of IT and the business, an ability to accurately explain the value of IT, an ability to negotiate commitments to information system strategies, and strong leadership to guide projects to their successful conclusion without fearing the risks,” says Nishikawa. 

That’s no small task for the CIO of one of Japan’s biggest telecommunications companies. NTT Docomo is a ¥4 trillion mobile telecommunications carrier supporting more than 60 million mobile phones. Like many telecommunications companies, NTT Docomo is pursuing several new business opportunities, such as providing advanced mobile services, creating partnerships with other industries and services, and providing new cloud computing services. 

“Our most important mission is to secure the communication infrastructures needed to link people to each other,” says Nishikawa. “That’s why our information systems have to be reliable at mission-critical levels. Additionally, to create new value and tackle the challenge of new markets, our information systems must feature low latency and high scalability. Oracle provides solutions that meet all these requirements.”

According to Nishikawa, NTT Docomo takes a best-of-breed approach to systems development, which has resulted in the company’s reliance on a range of Oracle solutions, including Oracle’s SPARC servers, Oracle Database (including Oracle Real Application Clusters and Oracle Data Guard), Oracle Fusion Middleware, and Oracle Exadata.

“Not only does Oracle offer the high reliability, performance, and security mission-critical systems require, but it also continues to invest in developments to ensure continuing innovation,” says Nishikawa.

Nishikawa points out that one of the most significant tasks for a CIO is to develop team structures that ensure secure and stable operation, but he doesn’t shy away from making big decisions or advocating for change. “Sometimes there’s a tendency for companies to try to keep existing systems going for just a few more years,” says Nishikawa. “But I believe CIOs also need to take risks and demonstrate leadership in putting new systems and needed transformations in place.” 

Victor Orlovski

Europe, Middle East, and Africa

Unified architecture opens door to innovation for Russia’s biggest bank. 

Winner Specs
Name: Victor Orlovski
Job title: CIO
Company: Sberbank
Location: Moscow, Russia
Award: CIO of the Year—Europe, Middle East, and Africa, 2012

"To be successful as CIO, I have to evolve every day,” says Victor Orlovski, CIO of Russia’s Sberbank and winner of the Oracle Excellence Award for CIO of the Year—Europe, Middle East, and Africa. “I have to learn something new every day.”

Established in 1841, the Savings Bank of the Russian Federation (Sberbank) is now the largest credit institution in Russia and Commonwealth of Independent States countries and has the second-largest branch network in the world, with more than 20,000 branches. The bank processes more than 160 million transactions a day, including 8.5 million face-to-face interactions. Its IT systems need to support more than 200,000 internal users, as well as 106 million consumers and more than 1 million corporate customers.

Five years ago, when Orlovski joined the bank, it had a range of internal systems. “Legally, we were just one bank,” says Orlovski. “But from a technology perspective, we were 17 independent banks.”

In order to stay competitive, the company realized it needed to consolidate. “I championed the idea that we needed one single platform for every piece of functionality across all regions,” says Orlovski. “But due to our size, we found that there were very few solutions worldwide that could meet our requirements for data consistency and performance. That’s why we selected Oracle solutions for the core of our new, unified architecture.”

So far, Orlovski’s biggest challenge has been centralizing the massive amount of data for the bank’s core business and accounting functions to enable consistent growth and improve flexibility and time to market for the new products. That’s where solutions such as Oracle Database and Oracle GoldenGate come in. In addition, with its customer focus, Oracle CRM applications became a core component of Sberbank’s new IT architecture.

With its consolidated architecture, Sberbank can look beyond existing day-to-day operations to new initiatives that will drive future growth. For example, Orlovski envisions a time when Sberbank’s more than 1 million midsize business customers might buy trusted third-party products through Sberbank’s retail network. “Technology becomes the biggest competitive driver,” says Orlovski. “It can become the biggest competitive advantage if used correctly, or the biggest competitive disadvantage if not used correctly.”

For Orlovski, helping transform an institution as large and historic as Sberbank is what keeps his job interesting. “Being CIO of a bank like Sberbank is a big challenge and really hard work,” says Orlovski. “But there are very few projects going on around the world that have as much potential to bring big changes to so many people. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build something special.”

Dr. Jung Hee Song

Asia Pacific

Customer-focused growth drives business transformation for Korean telecom.

Winner Specs
Name: Thaddeus Arroyo
Job title: Senior executive vice president and CIO
Company: KT Corporation
Location: Seoul, Korea
Award: CIO of the Year—Asia Pacific, 2012

It’s not unusual for large companies to create IT solutions focused on their employees. But Korea’s KT Corporation, a global leader in telecommunications, chose a different approach. It designed its new IT architecture around its customers.

“Rather than just focus on making an efficient IT system, we tried to build a new IT system that could align all our services into one package for the customer,” says Dr. Jung Hee Song, senior executive vice president and CIO of KT and winner of the Oracle Excellence Award for CIO of the Year—Asia Pacific.

In 2009 KT merged with its mobile subsidiary, KTF, to provide both fixed and wireless communications services. As CIO, one of Song’s key challenges was not only to integrate the two different core systems from the individual companies, but to do so from the perspective of the customer.

KT selected an integrated suite of Oracle Communications applications as the basis for its next-generation billing, service delivery, and operational support systems. The Oracle-based solution is helping KT to transform its business platform by enabling it to offer a broader range of integrated services while increasing customer satisfaction and reducing operational and network costs. In addition to Oracle Communications solutions, KT relies on a range of other Oracle products, including Oracle Database, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Siebel Customer Relationship Management, and Oracle WebLogic Server.

For KT, Oracle was a natural fit for its next-generation infrastructure. “Oracle products have a solid track record in telecom,” says Dr. Song.

When it came time to implement the new systems, KT decided to keep customization to a minimum. While Song and her team did need to make some modifications for specific tax and regulatory requirements related to the Korean market, they tried to use the off-the-shelf Oracle solutions as much as possible. That not only minimized system implementation costs but also delivered the added benefit of changing the company’s business processes and best practices to global standards. KT’s business and IT transformation project started in 2010 and will be completed in 2014.

Being CIO is a demanding job, but seeing the business transformation that the new IT systems have helped bring about within KT is very satisfying for Song. “We’ve moved from being a traditional, hierarchically oriented company to a more transparent and dynamic one, where employees are free to communicate and collaborate,” says Song. “It not only allows us to bring products and services to market more quickly, but our employees actually get more satisfaction from being more productive and effective.”

Cormac Lynch

North America

Consolidation brings process improvements to business—and recognition to IT.

Winner Specs
Name: Cormac Lynch
Job title: CIO, Rig Solutions Group
Company: National Oilwell Varco
Location: Houston, Texas
Award: CIO of the Year— North America, 2012

CIOs often face decisions about how much change they should attempt to drive through an organization. But for Cormac Lynch, CIO of the Rig Solutions Group at National Oilwell Varco (NOV) and winner of the Oracle Excellence Award for CIO of the Year—North America, being overly conservative on project scope was not an option.

“We were challenged with legacy IT systems that had been operating for more than 20 years and could no longer support new business capabilities, and due to the dependency required among various applications, we knew we had no choice but to implement all of the desired improvements at once,” says Lynch. Knowing they’d only have one shot to reengineer NOV’s systems and business processes, Lynch and his team decided to go all in—from replacing legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems across diverse engineer-to-order manufacturing locations to implementing complete product lifecycle management, master data management, and business intelligence.

“We realized the magnitude of this project but also knew there were no shortcuts to success,” says Lynch. “The key has been to balance the local demands of operations with the company’s goal of standardization, while maintaining our customer commitments.”

A Fortune 200 company, NOV provides products and services to the oil and gas industry. NOV has experienced dramatic growth over the last 10 years, both organic and through numerous acquisitions. While all that growth has been good for the bottom line, it led to several systems with duplicate functionality, including more than 30 legacy ERP systems in the Rig Solutions Group.

To solve the problem, NOV initiated a consolidation project focused on reducing the number of legacy systems through migration to a set of Oracle-based solutions. The company standardized on Oracle E-Business Suite for core business processes, Oracle’s Demantra for spare parts forecasting, and Oracle Fusion Middleware SOA solutions for integration. So far, NOV has rolled out the new Oracle-based solution to 11 of its 35 global manufacturing locations, with additional ongoing deployments.

“We used this project as a catalyst to change the organizational culture,” says Lynch. “In four years, we’ve transformed the organization from one in which users didn’t necessarily see a lot of value in IT to one where our users understand how much value a good IT structure can provide.”

His team’s focus isn’t on the IT systems themselves, says Lynch; it’s on how those systems can drive process improvements and make things more efficient for NOV while providing real-time information that’s accurate, complete, and up to date.

Leandro Balbinot

Latin America

Apparel retailer speeds IT change to drive business growth.

Winner Specs
Name: Leandro Balbinot
Job title: CIO, December 2008–October 2012
Company: Lojas Renner
Location: Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Award: CIO of the Year— Latin America, 2012

When your business is fashion, you need to be able to change fast. That’s why one of Brazil’s largest apparel retailers relies on Oracle.

In 2011 and 2012, Lojas Renner implemented a completely new supply chain strategy using its Oracle Retail solution. “With Oracle Retail and our new push-pull inventory model, Lojas Renner can be much more precise in its inventory,” says Leandro Balbinot, winner of the Oracle Excellence Award for CIO of the Year—Latin America for his work as CIO of Lojas Renner. “It basically guarantees a big reduction in stock-outs at the stores. So far it’s made a big impact and big difference in the distribution and sales of special products whose sales vary by region.”

Lojas Renner is the second-biggest apparel retailer in Brazil, with more than 230 stores and more than 19,000 employees. Its revenues for 2011 were approximately US$1.6 billion.

The company has used Oracle solutions for years. It implemented Oracle E-Business Suite in 2006 and was one of the first companies in Brazil to deploy Oracle Retail applications. Since then, Lojas Renner has deployed other Oracle solutions, including Oracle Exadata, Oracle Exalogic, and Oracle SOA Suite. In 2010, the company started using Oracle Managed Cloud Services (formerly Oracle On Demand) for deploying a range of IT solutions.

Oracle Managed Cloud Services is a good fit for Lojas Renner because it helps the company eliminate the need to find and hire qualified Oracle engineers. But that’s not all. “Having the best possible experts directly from Oracle supporting our system is a great solution,” says Balbinot. “Oracle Managed Cloud Services has a robust and flexible infrastructure model that allows Lojas Renner to grow fast, and without being concerned about setting up new infrastructure.”

As CIO from 2008 through 2012, Balbinot valued Lojas Renner’s relationship with Oracle. “Oracle doesn’t come to sell products,” says Balbinot. “Oracle comes to understand problems and is able to help Lojas Renner to identify solutions that fit the company’s needs.”

The result has been an IT strategy built around innovative solutions, from early use of kiosks within Lojas Renner stores to deployment of new solutions via Oracle Managed Cloud Services. “Innovative IT has always been important for Lojas Renner,” says Balbinot. “The focus has been on deploying consistent, robust, flexible, and scalable solutions to guarantee that Lojas Renner will be prepared to grow fast in the next 10 to 20 years.”

From Balbinot’s perspective, a good CIO has to know technology, but these days, he or she also needs to know the business. “A good CIO can’t hide behind technology anymore,” says Balbinot. “Instead, a CIO needs to be at the table discussing important business priorities and advising what types of IT investments the company should make.”

Mark Dearnley

Global Business Unit

Telecom redefines customer service with Oracle Communications and Oracle Retail applications.

Winner Specs
Name: Mark Dearnley
Job title: CIO
Company: Vodafone UK
Location: Newbury, England
Award: CIO of the Year—Global Business Unit, 2012

Mark Dearnley’s objective as CIO of Vodafone UK is simple: “Our IT drivers are to help create the best possible experience for our customers,” says Dearnley, winner of the Oracle Excellence Award for CIO of the Year—Global Business Unit. “Whether they’re consumers or businesses, we want to ensure that every experience they have with us works really, really well.”

That’s no easy task, considering that Vodafone is one of the world’s largest communications services providers. To meet its customer-service objective, the company is upgrading several of its legacy systems with Oracle-based solutions. By standardizing on an Oracle stack, automating its processes, and avoiding costly IT customizations, Vodafone hopes to improve business efficiency compared to its existing systems.

But the project isn’t just about possible cost savings. It’s also about serving the customer—in ways that other companies in the highly competitive communications industry can’t match.

“Reinventing our organization is all about changing our processes and ways of working to meet the changing expectations of our customers,” says Dearnley. “In the end, it comes down to an awful lot of systems work, and that’s being powered by Oracle products.”

As CIO, Dearnley is responsible for all of the IT systems that support Vodafone’s 19 million customers in the UK. As such, he has to make sure that everything from customer e-mails and call center interactions to billing events and purchases and returns happens seamlessly and in an integrated way.

Oracle applications are a big part of those seamless interactions. “We’re using a significant number of Oracle products across the whole of Vodafone,” says Dearnley. “But at Vodafone UK, the Oracle Communications and Oracle Retail applications are really powering the business transformation we’re going through and bringing us to the next level of customer service.”

One way the new systems are enabling that transformation is through much faster availability of critical business data. “The Oracle Communications products are enabling us to rapidly transform the experience we can give to our customers,” says Dearnley. “Oracle is enabling us to see every interaction we’re having with a customer in real time.”

For Dearnley and his IT group, the choice to invest in an Oracle-based solution wasn’t hard. “With Oracle, we take things like scalability, reliability, and operability for granted. They’re not in debate,” says Dearnley. “What we were looking for were the ways the solutions work together to create an experience for our customers that sets us apart from the rest of the industry. And so far, we’re very pleased.” 

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Photography by Julian Bock, Unsplash