By Angela Myers, Market America | SHOP.COM
Technology changes quickly, and the responsibilities of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are constantly evolving. Michael Brady is the CIO of Market America | SHOP.COM, a global product brokerage and internet marketing company that specializes in One-to-One Marketing. In a recent interview, Brady described his position at Market America: “It is not just about creating and delivering projects; you must also focus on understanding and analyzing the business value and longevity of those projects. You always have to have one foot in technology and one foot in business.” Brady uses an analogy from James C. Collins’ book Good to Great to describe his overall approach to being CIO: “If our technology master plan is a bus, then I am the bus driver. I specify the direction the bus should travel, fill it with the right people in the right seats, and keep it moving in the right direction.”
The job of a CIO is to ensure that business and technology are coupled in a way that supports the business. “It’s not always about the whiz-bang, awesome new technology; it’s really about building business value,” he said. Despite perpetual changes and growth at both Market America and in the larger technology landscape, Brady has determined that there are three constants in his position: people, process and technology.
Fundamental One: Finding And Motivating The Right People
Brady revealed that his relationships with his employees have been key to his success as CIO of Market America. “It’s not just about developing technology. I like to stay involved with the teams and projects. We have an open floor plan at Market America, and my desk sits directly in the center. It makes me approachable,” he said. He feels his most important tasks are to support his employees, listen to their ideas and stay aware of how his department is running. “Qualified people are essential to every organization — hire knowledgeable employees, then motivate and support them,” Brady said, and went on to advise other CIOs, “You may think you have the best idea or approach to a technology solution, and then someone shows you data that disproves it. Don’t have an ego about your own idea; trust your people and their expertise.”
Fundamental Two: Developing An Effective Process
Process has changed over the years, but the basics remain the same — getting from idea to product as quickly as possible. “A CIO should constantly improve upon his/her process to ensure it’s as efficient and effective as it can be,” Brady said. He also discussed how Market America transformed from using the waterfall process for software development to AGILE, allowing the technology teams to accommodate change through the development process and bring business value to the market faster: “You must analyze what is going on within the daily life of the department and work to improve it. If you find something better, don’t hesitate to make a change.” Brady believes that CIOs must ensure that IT processes support the overall business plan. “You have to be able to understand and effectively communicate the projects’ vision and goals to your people. Otherwise, you are going to fail,” he said.
Fundamental Three: Utilizing The Right Technology
“Technology is in a constant state of change, but the fundamentals are the same — finding and developing the most efficient tools for the job,” Brady said. Despite the new and trendy technologies available at any given time, Brady says that he focuses on a single evaluative factor when deciding what to implement at Market America: “Ensuring that the technology solution complements our business goals and objectives. If it doesn’t, there is little value.”
Microservices is an excellent example of the successful meeting of business needs and technological improvements. Microservices allows for coding and system support to be divided into smaller “bits,” giving the projects supporting Market America’s multiple websites and platforms more independence, as well as providing development teams with more autonomy and empowerment to release at a faster pace.
With his company’s objectives in mind, Brady constantly analyzes new technology trends. He advises other CIOs to “read every technology rag you can find, then lay out where you think trends are going and why.” While the past 20 years have brought amazing innovations to Market America and the world of e-commerce as a whole, Brady says that he’s found that the right people, processes and technologies are instrumental to the success of a CIO: “Always bring it back to the fundamentals, and you will flourish.”
About The Author
Angela Myers is the Public Relations and Marketing Intern at Market America | SHOP.COM. Angela is a sophomore at Elon University double majoring in Professional Writing and History. Her passions include business writing, travel and fitness.