REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 2, 2009 — CIO magazine has named Microsoft Chief Information Officer Tony Scott to its Hall of Fame for his vision and leadership in information technology.
The CIO Hall of Fame honors those who have “profoundly shaped the technology-enabled business landscape.”
“It’s pretty amazing to me to be joining these ranks,” Scott said.
Tony Scott, chief information officer for Microsoft, ran the IT departments of The Walt Disney Co. and General Motors Corp. before coming to Microsoft.
Scott is the second Microsoft leader to be inducted. In 2007, CIO also named Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner to its Hall of Fame. Scott also joins several of his mentors, including Ralph Szygenda, his former boss at General Motors Corp.
Scott was one of six chosen from a pool of 20 finalists, all current or former CIOs who have helped make “the CIO profession what it is today,” the magazine wrote.
Judges said this year’s honorees, including Scott, have advanced the CIO role far beyond its traditional scope. They have excelled at positioning IT as a strategic contributor to business; contributed to company growth; and demonstrated leadership, innovation, and survival amid tough challenges in the field.
Scott, who joined Microsoft nearly two years ago, has run IT operations for more than 25 years at global companies including The Walt Disney Co., GM, and Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co.
His career has straddled an entire generation of IT changes, from mainframe computing to the Internet. The evolution of technology in the workplace – and attitudes surrounding it – has been a dramatic one.
“We still have the phrase ‘going to work,’ meaning you physically pick yourself up and go some place to work. It’s a phrase that’s lingered on but it’s an increasingly inapt description of what actually happens,” Scott said. “We work everywhere, and in many ways our work actually comes to us versus the other way around.”
There is no longer much technology separation between home and work – a divide that definitely still existed when Scott was working as chief technology officer at GM from 1999-2004. There, Scott and his colleagues pioneered a program to bridge the work-home communications gap by working on a deal with AOL to provide GM employees with low-cost home Internet access. This propelled GM’s visibility in the IT industry, and Scott said he suddenly was receiving calls from CIOs of large companies asking how GM created the program and what they learned as a result of it.
Many GM employees already had PCs; the business and technology leaders at GM wanted them to have access to the “rich treasure” of the Web. The result was one of the first large-scale employee portals accessible from home, work, and later, from mobile devices.
Another big change during his career is the “dramatic speed at which business gets conducted,” Scott said.
“This big change is largely enabled by information technology,” he said. “People can more quickly make a decision, invent something, or deploy a product. And at the same time, people’s hunger for information is also at a much higher magnitude than it was.”
Another recent evolution is that consumer devices – smartphones, small PCs, even gaming machines – are becoming a part of the systems landscape at companies.
“When you think about it, Microsoft has done a form of this for a long time, but most IT organizations don’t have the experience of managing the variety and depth of devices that we do. Because of the business we’re in, and the manufacturers we support, a lot of companies are looking at us and saying, ‘How do you manage all of these things?’” Scott said. “From phones, PDAs, small-form-factor PCs all the way to gaming. It hasn’t been part of the normal IT landscape, but it’s also an interesting position for us to be in at Microsoft IT.”
Running the IT department at one of the world’s largest technology companies is a task that Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, once called one of the hardest jobs at Microsoft.
Scott has found that his role covers three main missions. One, of course, is to operate a well-run and efficient organization. “That’s the day job, the everyday, 365-days-a-year role, to make sure MSIT is as organized and good as it can be – and is also as good as the company needs it to be,” Scott said.
But there are two other “compelling and fun” missions of his job. One involves working with customers, including other large IT departments, not only to share Microsoft’s technology and business solutions but also to serve as an IT organizational model.
“There are lots of moving pieces when you have the diversity of products Microsoft has, and the many ways they can be put to use,” Scott said. “I spend a fair amount of time with customers, especially Microsoft’s large enterprise customers.”
Another mission is to work successfully with Microsoft’s product groups to deploy software at scale long before it’s in the hands of the public.
“The ability to have that intimate dialogue with product groups – not every CIO gets that,” Scott said.
Scott is particularly proud of the improvements made to the internal product launch process, all of which could be seen with the deployment of Windows 7. “There was heavy IT involvement to make sure it all goes as smoothly as it can,” Scott said, adding that behind the successful launch was a lot of hard work.
Another major accomplishment is that Microsoft has gone 10 fiscal quarters without any sort of systems failure leading to missed sales.
Scott knows what it’s like to experience a large-scale systems failure. While working as senior vice president and CIO of The Walt Disney Co. – where he was the first CIO to manage Disney’s companywide IT – a series of unlikely and unfortunate events resulted in five separate power outages at two of the company’s data centers.
This “got me into the religion of risk management and core infrastructure,” Scott said. The outages got the attention of senior executives, and Scott then led the company through a major transformation, including improving the reliability and effectiveness of the company’s information systems; shifting focus more toward employee enablement; and upgrading core IT infrastructure including data center reliability.
Scott said he’s excited about what being honored by induction into the CIO Hall of Fame may mean for the future. “It may represent a greater opportunity to reach out and have a dialogue about how we can make technology even more relevant,” he said. “I’m excited about it in that sense.”
As for what the honor says about his past? Scott is the first to share the honor with people he’s worked with along the way.
“I think this award probably says more about the company I keep,” Scott said. “I’d say most of the credit goes to the incredible support I’ve had, and the people who’ve helped me along the way. I’ve had the great fortune of not only having great mentors, but also an extremely supportive staff and great colleagues to work with who every day bring great inspiration and help me with the difficult parts at every turn.”
“I have dream job,” he added. “No question about it.”