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From Service Provider to Growth Leader

Martha Heller | Aug. 20, 2015
John Marcante, CIO of Vanguard, on the new role of IT

john marcante 
John Marcante. Credit: Vanguard

John Marcante, CIO and Managing Director of Vanguard, the largest mutual fund company in the world, manages an organization of thousands of IT people who support more than 14,000 employees. Last year, I posted blogs on Marcante’s approach to leadership development and communicating IT strategy. I received such wonderful feedback on those blogs, that I approached Marcante for more. I am pleased to present a new interview on the changing CIO role and the “test and learn” approach.

How is your role as CIO different than five years ago?

Today, my role is less about leading a service provider organization and more about using technology for top line growth, whether that's revenue or client loyalty. That puts a new set of expectations on the technology organization, which grew up enabling strategy. Now, there are many more times when IT has to lead.

Years ago, we built out a big data ecosystem at Vanguard. In IT, we wanted to accelerate our progress with big data, and we knew that if we were to become a data driven company, we had to build out the ecosystem. We did the opposite of what a service provider would do. Our attitude was, "Build it and they will come." That’s probably the fastest way for a CIO to get fired, but the investment has led to a huge number of great use cases around data analytics at Vanguard.

How do you evolve your team from service provider to leader?

We rotate our high-potential performers and senior executives around the company. I've had the chance to move out of IT and run some of our businesses at Vanguard, and many of my leaders have rotated through other corporate roles and returned to IT.  That not only gives us credibility but allows us to be more effective at envisioning the possibilities for technology to better serve our clients in each of our diverse businesses. Years ago, we rotated an IT leader, Rich Luzzi, out of IT to run our very complex institutional operations group.  Because that group had big people management responsibilities and some very challenging change management opportunities, it presented Rich with an opportunity to apply his technology knowledge to that business.

Rich was out of IT for a decade, and then I brought him back to run the data centers, which is arguably one of the more technical positions that we have. He asked me, "Why are you bringing me back to run the data centers?" And I said, "Because the data centers are moving toward service oriented infrastructure with DevOps and cloud computing. We are becoming a broker of services in the data center, rather than just providing compute and storage power. That requires big changes on the people side and you are well equipped to manage it.” And, you know what? He's doing an excellent job.


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