As the second and final day of the CIO 100 Symposium & Awards Ceremony is nearing its close, I thought I’d pull together a few tidbits from some of the sessions I’ve attended these last two days, in no particular order.

Mike McClaskey, SVP and CIO at Dish, the satellite TV provider, is apparently a take-no prisoners sort of guy. Before starting a far-reaching IT project that he knew would test the mettle of his team, he took stock of that team and how strong each member was – then fired about 10% of them in a single day.

“In one action, we took out a number of people who we knew wouldn’t be able to do what we needed them to do,” he said. The company then re-opened the positions the next day and set about hiring replacements. His message to the 90% who remained: you’ll get stronger team members sitting next to you. “If there was one thing we did along the way that was critically important, it was that.”

McClaskey also put his partners through something of a wringer. After vetting a number of providers vying to help with the implementation, he picked two finalists and paid both to demonstrate how they’d perform in a pre-implementation test. Then, you guessed it, he pulled the ripcord on one of them and hired the other. Is the guy ruthless or really smart? You be the judge.

Kim Hammonds, CIO of Boeing Company, tossed around lots of interesting facts and figures during her keynote Tuesday morning. Boeing has one of largest IT portfolios in existence, with 24,000 SharePoint sites, 198,000 mailboxes and about 6,000 applications. It has to keep much of its data for 100 years because of the lifespan of its products – a storage challenge I’m sure few envy.

Boeing will be looking to produce more than 30% more planes in the first half of 2014 as compared to today and her group is challenged to help make it happen.

Boeing’s Everett Wash. assembly plant can hold 75 football fields. Put another way, 3.2 billion 16 oz. soda cans would fit in the building. She didn’t mention who is in charge of coming up with such figures.

Every new IT hire at Boeing is put on a rotation program, doing time in the infrastructure group, security, and so on. The idea is to learn as much as possible about the company as a whole, the IT group in particular and to develop a business mindset, she said.

Along the same lines, all Boeing IT employees work with business leaders and users in the field to see how systems and processes are working. Hammonds, for example, spent a couple of days in that massive assembly plant in Everett, calling it a “wonderful experience.” One female mechanic was armed with a list of items for Hammonds, both good and bad. “Getting on the floor will give you lots of ‘Aha’ moments and people will really appreciate it,” she said.

Carol Zierhoffer, VP and CIO at Xerox Corp., enlightened the audience as to just what Xerox is up to these days – and how it’s a lot more than copiers and printers. One example is the E-ZPass transponder system that enables drivers in various states to pay tolls without stopping. “That’s Xerox,” she said. The company also has a big healthcare group and invented the anti-counterfeiting packaging that helps consumers ensure the drugs they get is literally what the doctor ordered.

Xerox has about 1,300 applications but her “big audacious goal” is to get it to 600 in 5 years. “We have to do that,” she says.

Transformational initiatives at Xerox are all co-owned by IT and business leaders, or what she calls “two in a box.”  When the two come to loggerheads, the business leader gets 51% of the vote.

I’ll leave you with two good quotes from Zierhoffer:

  • She tells her team, “You’re either a decision maker or decision taker. I want us to be decision makers.”
  • “CIOs want a seat at the table. But when you get there, you better have something to say.”

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