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CUNA's CIO wears two hats: Isn't IT enough?

Rick Roy, CIO of CUNA Mutual Group, sees several similarities between running the IT and procurement departments, both of which he's in charge of for the financial services company. For starters, your team's help isn't universally welcomed.

If a department's leaders are happily buying, say, temp services from one vendor, they're not necessarily excited to hear that they need to start buying through a centralized group--even if they understand that having one contract probably means leverage to get a better price. That's a lot like the conversations around shadow IT.

"We [in procurement] do run the risk of showing up on someone's doorstep with a message of 'we're from corporate, and we're here to help,'" Roy says. "But that's not so different from what we do in IT."

Roy has been leading procurement, real estate, physical security, and facilities for more than a year, while retaining his CIO duties. It started when the since-retired CFO, Jerry Pavelich, wanted a tighter grip on purchasing and approached Roy about taking over procurement. "He caught me a little bit by surprise," Roy admits.

Putting IT and procurement under one exec can make sense for a number of reasons, Roy says. One is the reality that if there's a procurement project moving forward, there's probably an IT component and IT staff involvement early in the process.. That's particularly true at a financial services company like CUNA Mutual, which provides financial services such as insurance and investments to credit unions. The IT leadership already is involved in negotiations for a lot of contracts for equipment, software, and services, so it has a level of expertise. That includes knowing the right questions to ask about data control, security, and privacy, as well as questions around liability and service level agreements related to uptime and other performance factors.
Thanks to the new arrangement, Roy thinks CUNA has gained better teamwork in a few areas. For example, the IT security and physical security teams have started working more closely, in particular as they think about wireless network security and places in the building where different people--employees, contractors, visitors--might try to access wireless networks.

And yes, of course this kind of teamwork can and does happen without putting one person in charge of two staffs or making any organizational changes, and CUNA Mutual has a strong culture of collaboration. But Roy's a realist: "We all know how it works: When things are hard-wired in an org structure, you are aligned."

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