The Transformational CIO: Challenges and Lessons

Corning Vice President & CIO Mark Clark shares his biggest IT transformation challenges, and most important lessons, with Axiom Consulting Partners’ Don Ruse.

Don Ruse: You took the role of CIO at Corning three years ago, right at the beginning of IT’s transformation. As you look back, what have been the biggest challenges you have faced and some of the most important lessons you have learned that you can share with your fellow CIOs as they contemplate transforming their own functions?

Mark Clark: From a challenges perspective, I know that the biggest one people would probably say is getting the organization to buy off on the change. But for me, when I interviewed for the role, they were already looking to transform IT, so I had the advantage that at least from leadership’s perspective, they were looking for us to transform. But there are still challenges in that; I think that they were thinking this was all about an IT transformation, meaning it was all within the function and that is all that really needed change. When what the experience has shown us is that it really has required a change not only in the way IT operates and the way it does its work, but it also requires a change in the way the business interacts and leverages IT and the way they utilize IT and invests in IT, the way they partner and the way the structure of the organizations work together.

From inside of IT, we had to shift from being, honestly, the order taker. We were very comfortable being the IT ‘power and light company,’ and we wanted to move more to be a value added, proactive business partner. That has been a journey that requires a different set of skills and competencies. We spent a lot of time trying to define what that meant from a competencies perspective by role, as well as just trying to understand how we wanted to structure the organization in a way that we could be that business partner.

Secondly, you asked me what are the big lessons that I have learned, and from a lessons learned perspective, one is how difficult it is to move a culture. When I started, I probably was more focused on where I had to move the services and technologies that had to be in place to serve the business. And what I learned is how difficult it is to do that and to also change the way we do our work. Again, I say that both from the IT perspective and from the business perspective, for Corning to do this. That has taken more time, so the second big lesson learned is that it really does take time to do this.

And the third thing is, it is easy sometimes to forget that you made progress. Because there are always walls that you hit and there are always things that you aspire to do, and I am a very Type A person; I really wanted to have things- probably stretch goals be met. I have to recognize that again, the progress we are making is appropriate and we are getting real value from it and sometimes in the heat of the battle I forget that we have just taken a lot of land and I am feeling really good about it. It is easy to focus on what is yet to be done than what still has to be done. So that is the third lesson — my patience in this.

All in all, Don, those lessons have helped us to ensure that our transformation is making meaningful change. So I am very positive about where we are.

Other videos in this series:

Successful IT Transformation: What are the Outcomes?

IT Changes Create Competitive Advantage

The New CIO Competencies

How IT Drives Value Across the Organization

Changing IT Roles: How Corning is Meeting New Demands

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