C-Suite CIO: First strategists, then technologists

May, 2016

Photos by Kurt Stevens

Dozens of techies and executives were up at the break of dawn on Wednesday at Dole Cannery’s Pomaikai Ballrooms for Zippy’s Portuguese Sausage omelette sandwiches, pastries and special C-Suite Series event: “The New Role of the CIO: Transitioning from Chief Information Officer to Chief Innovation Officer.”

With the average turnover rate of CIO’s rounding to about 18 months, the session highlighted tech leaders’ strategies on how and why it’s necessary to become more than just “the IT person.” The panel featured key industry leaders: Sheh Bertram, CIO at Bank of Hawaii, Craig Grivette, Principal at KPMG, and Todd Nacapuy, CIO of the State of Hawaii.


After introductory remarks from sponsors DRFortress and Kaiser Permanente, and a motivational keynote speech from Nacapuy, panel moderator and our editor, Steve Petranik, kicked off the session with an interactive MeetingSift survey. When asked to describe their IT department in one word, several employees responded with “frustrating,” “slow” or “ancient.”


Nacapuy addressed the problem, saying CIO’s need to work together to modernize the IT culture in Hawaii. They often forget that they are visionaries, too. The technical nature of the role makes it easy to get caught up in a day-by-day mentality. To overcome that, create a team with passion. An ideal team consists of “people managers”, which Nacapuy describes as people who can be taught the technical stuff, but are passionate about where the company is going.


“In order to drive innovation, you need to inspire your people,” said Nacapuy. He also encouraged attendees to employ risk management skills so that they can take more risks to stimulate innovation. “Fail fast and recover fast,” he said. “A lot of CIO’s go with the safe bet. We have a saying that goes, ‘Nobody ever got fired for using Cisco.’”

Focus on your team, focus on targeted opportunities for innovation, and remember, it’s not going to all happen overnight.


“The biggest mistake companies make is trying to change the entire infrastructure or organization to be innovative,” said Nacapuy. While being the next Steve Jobs and turning your company into the next Apple is great, a system upgrade alone could cost anywhere from $60-$100 million. A lot of cost can be cut by solving process inefficiencies through service-oriented infrastructures, like cloud services or data management programs.

In order to change the tech industry in Hawaii, all panelists agreed that marketing is a key factor. “We as IT professional don’t do a very good job at marketing,” said Nacapuy, half-jokingly. Not only that, poor marketing could be the reason why Hawaii’s IT industry is going through a severe talent shortage. Which is why, Nacapuy said, every CIO needs to work very closely with their PIO (Public Information Officer).


The event struck a chord with Grivette, who remarked, “I could’ve been taking notes the whole time that Todd and Sheh were speaking. They were bringing a lot of interesting and new ideas to this.”


“The biggest thing is that we’re clearly all in this together. There wasn’t anybody in the room where they were like, ‘This doesn’t apply to me.’ You also get these little conversations that happen afterwards. People are saying, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing,’ so it makes this very exciting,” said Grivette.

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