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CIO Profiles: Kenneth Shulman Of Broadview Networks

Outsourcing can be useful, but it’s overrated, says this tech chief.

Career Track

How long at Broadview Networks: More than 12 years at this communications provider.

Kenneth Shulman
CIO and CTO, Broadview Networks

Most important career influencer: Early in my career, while at Bell Labs, I had the privilege of working under my lab director, Ron Haas. I was about five years in but getting antsy about long-term career planning. Ron took an interest in my growth and, as a graduate of the University of Chicago’s Executive MBA program, encouraged me to explore that route. With his support, I applied and was accepted to the Wharton School’s Executive MBA program. It was an extraordinary opportunity that paved the way for my evolving career. Sadly, Ron passed away not long afterward, but I will always remember him and be grateful.

On The Job

IT budget: $10 million

Top initiatives:

  • We’re focused on tightening our disaster recovery processes and procedures.
  • We’re building the systems and processes to let other service providers resell our cloud-based business voice service under their own brands.
  • Using Web-based applications, we’re working to improve sales activity with redesigned sales automation dashboards and workspaces.

Vision

How I give my team room to innovate: We incorporate the innovation opportunities within the context of the run-the-business priorities. We encourage and cheerlead prototypes and creative solutions, ask open-ended questions, and keep ourselves open to different ideas. In addition, we encourage our leaders to put their egos in check and let individuals and teams show what they can do.

The most common cause when IT projects go wrong: Incomplete scope definition and scope creep is probably the biggest single cause of IT projects going bad. It leads to misunderstandings and missed expectations, as well as project delays and budget overruns.

What I need from tech vendors: Tell me: What problem are you solving, and how does it affect my world? I’ve heard too many pitches like “We can save you 40% of your IT spending with what we do,” only to find that the vendor has no clue where that 40% is going to come from.

The most overrated IT movement: Outsourcing is overrated, though we’ve leveraged it in certain areas with great success. If you read the trade press uncritically, you’d conclude that if you’re not outsourcing help desk, support, or development, you’re missing the boat. Frankly, it has its place and offers benefits, but there are hidden costs that are often overlooked.

Personal

Favorite sports coach: Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants; he shows respect for his players, while maintaining his authority as their boss

The fastest way into my doghouse: Say you’re going to do something but fail to deliver

Favorite music: I’m a big fan of the folk groups of the ’60s and ’70s–Simon & Garfunkel, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Harry Chapin, and Joni Mitchell (I guess I’m really dating myself here)

Last vacation: The Hudson Valley of New York, where an amazing amount of history happened

If I weren’t a CIO, I’d be … a cosmologist–I’m fascinated by the evolving theories of our universe

Ranked No. 28 in the 2012 InformationWeek 500

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