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Home Business Intelligence The Mid-Market CIO: Spotlight on Leadership in Minnesota

The Mid-Market CIO: Spotlight on Leadership in Minnesota


Middle market firms are essential to U.S. competitiveness and future. According to the National Center for the Middle Market, “…the nearly 200,000 companies that comprise the U.S. middle market encompass 44.5 million jobs, account for one third of total private employment, and generate more than $10 trillion in combined revenues annually.” The market is not just fast growing, it’s increasingly level pegging the enterprise sector in technology adoption and innovation.

Zoom in and you’ll find that Minnesota is home to approximately one thousand middle market firms. Among them are some of country’s most experienced and forward-thinking CIOs. Last week’s Evanta Mid-Market CIO Executive Summit in Minneapolis, sponsored in part by GNet Group, was both a showcase and an opportunity for many of these extraordinary executives to come together to build their skills and explore opportunities for driving business transformation. We, our CIO customers, and colleagues spent the day digging into issues, stories and strategies steered by targeted presentations on: Establishing a Path of Corporate Alignment,  IT as Brand Differentiator, Demystifying IT, and Growth through Governance. 


Select Highlights: Mid-Market CIO Executive Summit, Minneapolis, Dec. 4, 2013

Throughout the day, CIOs shared insights and ideas on how IT can become better aligned with the business. Some pointers included:

  • Show that IT is equally concerned with growth, innovation and the bottom line by collaborating with other business units on business strategies and demonstrating the value of IT
  • Work closely with other C-level execs, particularly the CEO, CFO and Board of Directors
  • Put IT into a context the business understands and speak the same language


Demonstrating real world proof that alignment and collaboration begins at the top, Buffalo Wild Wings kicked off the event with a paired keynote on “Everyone’s Business is Everyone’s Business – Establishing a Path of Corporate Alignment.” In it we learned from Karen Bird, VP of IT, and Judy Shoulak, EVP of North American Operations, how their partnership enabled IT to team with other business units to foster creativity, consistency, and collaboration.

IT’s role in innovation and winning the customer came to life in GNet Group’s sponsored session by Polaris CIO, Bill Fisher: “Taking Your Organization to the Next Level – IT as a Brand Differentiator.” Attendees heard the story of how IT has become fundamental to product innovation and growth at Polaris. As Polaris’ partner, we know firsthand this was no easy expedition. In order for the business to gain a competitive advantage and improve the customer experience, Polaris’ IT department needed to become more data driven. This meant facilitating IT alignment with all other departments and the provision of a comprehensive data platform that worked seamlessly to support individual and all-up corporate business strategies.

A key takeaway from “The CIO’s Role in Demystifying IT,” presented by Red Wing Shoes CIO, Joe Topinka, is the importance of IT/business collaboration on business strategy and how a seat at this table is critical for showing IT’s ability to go beyond day-to-day problem-solving to facilitating vital organizational change and growth.

Maximizing profits through data-driven decisions took center stage in a presentation by Tony Peleska, CIO of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency on “Growth through Governance – A CIO’s Guide to Data Management.” Tony gave us great visibility into public sector advances with data governance, and shared solid advice, such as: start small — tackle what’s attainable; get buy-in from senior leaders; and focus on the outcomes of data management, rather than the processes.

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