How a community of CIOs is creating standards and stopping the madness of vendor pitches

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CIOs in any industry understand that in order to keep pace with the fast-moving world of technology, one has to pay attention to what is happening in the market. We must keep an ear toward new technology solutions without getting bombarded or sidetracked by vendor pitches. The construction industry is no different. Three years ago, a number of my peers and I initiated a way to stay current that CIOs in other industries may want to replicate.

In 2014, I hosted seven key CIOs from larger construction companies at Rosendin Electric’s headquarters in San Jose, Calif. Our two-day agenda was loose, with the overall goal of simply talking about the challenges we face in the industry. Fast forward to today, this forum has grown to include 12 of the largest construction companies in the nation and has become a popular event. What started out as a simple gathering of minds has morphed into something much bigger.

Fast forward to today, this forum has grown to include 12 of the largest construction companies in the nation and has become a popular event.

CIOs must "Stop the Madness" 

For the 2017 forum, the summit attendees and I are partnering with Constructech Magazine, professors from accredited colleges, and other industry experts, to begin forming a “Standards Committee” for the construction field. With the proliferation of technology in construction, CIOs are being hammered by vendors who all have point solutions. This matter alone is why a Standards Committee is very important and significant at this time. As human beings, it is very easy to get distracted by all the options in the market and succumb to “shiny object syndrome.” As CIOs, we need to stop the madness and determine how we can standardize on a few specific platforms industry-wide.

At the end of the second day of this year’s forum, our group will be hosting a larger event and kicking off our efforts to develop standards with an additional 10 construction companies. The goal is to start a dialogue on how to design, build, and support a set of standards that can be used industry wide with the theme of “Stop the Madness.”

All too often in the IT world – not strictly unique to construction – CIOs tend to play the part of the victim. We say, “There are so many vendors. There are no standards. There are no integrations. Poor us!” But, now we have an opportunity to sway the technology vendors who provide our construction solutions. It is incredibly important to “Stop the Madness” within our industry. This event will be key in providing a setting for CIOs to work together to develop standards that work collectively for everyone involved.

Making it happen

I credit the success of the forum event to a number of factors. First and foremost, I am privileged to report to an amazing CEO at Rosendin Electric, Tom Sorley. Tom is passionate about embracing technology and being a part of the leading edge. Additionally, Rosendin Electric is located in San Jose at the center of Silicon Valley; this location alone is a draw for other CIOs. With Tom’s support, I was able to host the first CIO event and invite companies that were partnered with Rosendin, as well as some that were not. From a technological perspective, we are all on an even playing field and Tom recognized this, embraced it, and continues to encourage me in moving forward with defining industry standards.

Initially, I reached out to a core set of construction CIOs, some of whom I knew very well and some I did not know at all. As the forum grew, the CIOs who initially attended have recommended CIOs from other construction companies, and, through word of mouth, more CIOs have asked to join. There is not a prerequisite or requirement in terms of who you are or the size of your organization to join this forum. We, as a group, only ask for a willingness to spend two days having honest, open dialogue with like-minded peers about challenges, successes, and areas for improvement. There is an unspoken confidence and understanding among every attendee that, when discussions are of a sensitive or confidential manner, we are doing so in a private setting. The willingness of the attendees to be open and honest from the beginning is why I believe this event has been a success and people want to return year after year.

How you can get started (and why you should)

All too often, as CIOs, we are so wrapped up and inundated in the grind of daily activities that we rarely take the time to educate ourselves and stay informed of what is happening outside of our four walls.

CIOs who are interested in starting their own events will, first, need buy-in from their company. Company leaders must be comfortable with the idea behind the form, or it will be very hard to get off the ground. Secondly, as the organizer, the CIO has to be willing to dedicate the required time, energy, and attention needed in contacting and selling the idea to peers. Finally, follow-through is instrumental in putting on a successful event the first year. Speaking from experience, it takes a lot of time and energy to pull everything together, but, when it’s all done, the payoff can be incredible.

All too often, as CIOs, we are so wrapped up and inundated in the grind of daily activities that we rarely take the time to educate ourselves and stay informed of what is happening outside of our four walls. It is important to schedule regular informal networking meetings with our colleagues and peers to help break up this monotony. Fundamentally, we just need to dedicate our time and energy to do it and do it well.

Another important consideration when starting your own event is who you decide you want to be part of the group. Managing our industry event was made that much easier simply because I was able to invite some very talented IT professionals within the industry. The leaders I pulled together are articulate, always willing to share their experiences, and take the time to listen to others’ experiences as well. An event can be successful simply by the dynamics between the team and the people in the room.

What will you get out of it

By tapping into a larger network, I gain a 360-degree perspective on anything I’m trying to accomplish and vice versa. This is powerful!

The benefits of hosting a forum event are well worth the work involved to make it happen. Through the CIO forum event, I feel privileged to have developed a core group of CIO friends and colleagues who I can call upon when I need to discuss a challenge with talent, technology, or any another business-related issue. We all have different mindsets, but we all understand the value of technology in construction. By tapping into a larger network, I gain a 360-degree perspective on anything I’m trying to accomplish and vice versa. This is powerful!

As an added benefit, we see strength in numbers. If larger technology companies are dealing with each and every one of us individually, we exert a lot less pressure on them for price control and/or standards development. If they deal with us as a big consortium, we carry more weight, which in turn could lead to change.

The time and effort we put into staying current and up-to-speed on how technology is impacting our industries will pay off in more ways imaginable. If you do not have a group of CIO peers who you can tap into for feedback and guidance in your industry, you have the power to create one. Your group does not need to have a full-blown event designed to set industry standards; start small by hosting a conference call amongst peers in your field. You never know what might lead to your next big idea. At the very least, you will be heartened to know that you are not alone.

Sam Lamonica is Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Rosendin Electric, the nation’s largest privately held electrical contractor. Rosendin Electric has over 4,000 office and field employees and yearly revenue of close to $1 Billion. He is responsible for the companies’ Information System Organization as well as Archives/Records Management. Prior to joining Rosendin Electric, Mr.

Comments

Excellent initiative Sam. Thanks for sharing. This an amazing example of CIO collaboration and reminder that it takes of us to initiate for the good cause.

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