For Jay Ferro, CIO of the American Cancer Society, his employer’s mission hits far closer to home than those of most others in his position. The father of three boys, Ferro lost his 36-year-old wife, Priscilla, to cervical cancer in January 2007. In her memory, he founded Priscilla's Promise, a non-profit organization that brings greater awareness to cervical cancer.
Inspired by his personal experience with the disease, Ferro joined ACS as CIO in 2012 with the mission of applying his abilities as a savvy technology leader who understands how to apply IT solutions to achieve business goals. He was driven to ensure that in addition to supporting the organization’s infrastructure, IT also furthered its causes.
Like so many businesses today, ACS runs on a foundation of IT systems; these systems assist in strategic decision-making, support back-office operations, and help manage event planning and fundraising. This is why Ferro last year led an IT Transformation at ACS that consolidated 13 different IT groups as part of a significant application portfolio management project.
Ferro recently described ACS’s IT Transformation to CIO Insight’s Peter High:
We began the journey of IT transformation by conducting a professional assessment of how assets and processes were distributed to get a better understanding of what we had, and where, and how we were using them. We needed to know where all our moving pieces were nationwide before we could begin to assemble them into a more cohesive unit. From the beginning, our markers for success relied on feedback and interaction. We broke down any walls between IT and the rest of the enterprise, and this new open dialogue helped us gain a greater perspective on how our work was perceived. Using external benchmarking, focus groups, surveys, enterprise social media and customer satisfaction through our Service Desk, we measured ourselves against our goals each step of the way.
Today, Ferro states that ACS operates one unified IT Department. However, much like Forrester’s Marc Cecere explained in a recent IT Transformation webinar, there is still a cultural change that needs to take place within the organization. Each of the 13 merged divisions now needs to adapt its business processes so they are easily understood across the new group. Although the cultural change will take some time and continue to evolve, Ferro explains that the success of the IT merger has “set a positive tone and stable platform – literally and figuratively – for the rest of the organization.”
In the CIO Insight article, Ferro goes on to identify those benefits that “cannot be understated”:
Through consolidation, we were able to simplify a highly decentralized architecture, standardize our computers and systems, better protect our data and information, and offer industry-standard tools to the enterprise. Managing and supporting all technology efforts has greatly improved by transforming and centralizing our IT team. We exist to serve the lifesaving mission of the American Cancer Society, and our supporters expect–and I fully agree–us to be the most efficient and effective group we can be. This transformation effort has enabled an evolutionary leap toward that goal.
Reducing the complexity of IT systems is the main goal of IT transformations, much like the one conducted at ACS. As highlighted in the annual CRASH report, these complexities – Changeability, Transferability, Security, Performance and Robustness – can adversely affect the Total Quality Index of an organization’s IT system and interfere with its mission, which could have disastrous implications to any organization.
Meanwhile at ACS, thanks in part to the IT Transformation undertaken by Ferro, that organization’s benevolent mission will surely thrive.