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CIO Leadership Series: David Cagigal, Alliant Energy

Surely during the Internet boom days you heard all about the web-enabled refrigerator that would keep track of your grocery list and even have a chat with the local grocer to get it delivered. You could barely turn around without bumping into that story. Given what was actually showing up on the appliance showroom floors, it seemed like an urban legend, earnestly attested to by friends who claimed to know somebody who had seen it, but not quite real. That said, one of the things they’re trumpeting at this year’s local parade of homes is a refrigerator with a removable, wi-fi enabled display, so legend finally meets reality, and I got to meet the guy who was in at the beginning of the networked refrigerator at Maytag.

Cagigal
David Cagigal is Alliant Energy’s new CITO. Prior to that he was at Maytag, leading their efforts to understand how IT might change the world of the household appliance and voila! the networked fridge. The combination of IT and other technologies is a key part of his role at Alliant Energy. The IT in the title isn’t information technology; it’s information and technology—in the case of Alliant, energy technologies. The most obvious example of that combination is broadband over power lines. David is keeping a close eye on broadband over power lines experiments underway in various locales.

“What if we just quit spending money on new technology?”
It’s not just the whiz bang new combinations that draw his attention, however. You can’t work very long at a utility before somebody starts talking about return on assets. I picked it up almost immediately when I worked for the phone company way back when, and David knows that drill from time with Amoco even before he began working at Alliant. One of the questions David likes to ask is what return Alliant is getting on its information technology assets. “It catches people’s attention when I ask ‘What if we just quit spending money on new technology and tried to get more out of what we’ve already got?’ They’re not used to a technologist thinking about shutting off the faucet.” Before rushing into the next upgrade he has to ask how well the current piece of technology is being used, given that we all know we use only a small percentage of the capabilities of most of the software we own.

It’s not all cut and dried for David, though. In the last year, Alliant has seriously reconsidered its business ventures into non-regulated energy investment and is tightening its focus back to its original regulated core. That’s not just a matter of selling off a bunch of businesses but also a matter of matching the size and capabilities of Alliant’s support infrastructure including IT to the new business model. The related difficult organizational and personnel decisions aren’t just another management day at the office for David. He’s the kind of guy who knows he’d be teaching if he wasn’t in IT because of his commitment to the development of people, so he doesn’t shy away from the personnel side of his job, difficult or not. He says, “I do the best I can to ensure people have defined their dreams and aspirations with a roadmap to get there.” Mix that in with his interest in how to get a better return on IT assets and it’s not too long before you start working with other executives to have an IT literacy component included as one of the core competencies for all employees, as David has.

Whether looking at employee competencies across the company or thinking about the basic computing and network infrastructure for Alliant, David always returns to the “I” and the “T” in his title, thinking about ways to integrate energy and information technology to drive better investments and to advance business strategies. He may not always be growing his IT budget or expanding his empire, but he will always be finding ways to move Alliant Energy and the people who work there forward.

Q&A with David Cagigal

What's the latest book you've read?
Generations at Work: Managing the clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers and Nexters in Your Work Place, by Ron Zemke
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What magazines do you read regularly?
Fortune, CIO

What web sites do you visit regularly?
My Compass (Intranet), CIO, New York Times, Gartner, Computerworld

What organizations do you belong to?
DePaul University Hispanic Alumni Association (President), Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement, National Society of Hispanic Master Business Administration, and Accelerate Madison

What's your favorite quote on leadership?
“Leaders are honest, forward-looking, competent, and inspiring,” - James Kouzes
“If we don’t believe the messenger, we won’t believe the message,” - James Kouzes
“A leader is a dealer in hope,” - Napoleon Bonaparte

Byron Glick is a principal at Prairie Star Consulting, LLC of Madison Wis. Prairie Star specializes in managing the organizational impacts of technology. He can be contacted via e-mail at byron.glick@prairiestarconsulting.com or via telephone at 608/345-3958.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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