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What Biogen wants in a new CIO

July 18, 2016
Life sciences

Adriana Karaboutis, executive vice president of technology, business solutions and corporate affairs at Biogen Inc., is on the hunt for a new CIO.

The biopharmaceutical company, like many companies, uses technology not only as a means to make operations more efficient but also as a base for new products and a way to find new customers. Ms. Karaboutis, a former CIO herself at Dell Inc. from 2011 to 2014, has clear ideas about what she does and does not want in a new information chief. Financial acumen ranks high on her list.

“Every leader, including the leader of technology, should understand the economics and cash flow and balance sheets of the company,” Ms. Karaboutis tells CIO Journal. “You can’t generate revenue if you don’t understand those things. Traditionally, CIOs have taken a flyer on that.”

Matt Griffiths, former CIO at Biogen, left in May after just over a year in the position. The company declined to talk about it and Mr. Griffiths did not respond to a message asking for comment.

In filling the position, Ms. Karaboutis seeks an executive with proven “disruption” experience, she said. That is, someone who can come up with new business processes based on new technology. The CIO role generally has progressed from a manager who oversees the automation of business processes to one who brings new business ideas to C-level peers, she said. The best candidates have done that at other firms, she said, and will be able to do it quickly at Biogen. The company is looking to speed up drug development, for example. For an IT project “that a few years back would take two years, I’m looking at six to eight months and 90-day deliverables within that,” she said. “It’s a much tighter cycle.”

CIOs have gained stature in a digital economy, working closely with chief executives on corporate strategy. “I view technology today very differently than I did five or 10 years ago. It’s no longer a backroom function,” as Target Corp. CEO Brian Cornell recently told CIO Journal.

Biogen’s next CIO must bring fresh thinking about emerging technologies. Biogen has worked with Alphabet Inc.’s Google on using wearable computing devices in testing treatments for multiple sclerosis and Ms. Karaboutis is interested in how to use blockchain online ledgers to streamline and secure supply chain systems. A worthy IT leader, she said, would not wait for another executive to broach such ideas. “The CIO role has become much more peer-to-peer than it was. It’s about saying, ‘Here’s what we should be doing.’”

Ms. Karaboutis has not set a deadline for hiring a new CIO.

By Kim S. Nash

Source: Wall Street Journal

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