CIO Spotlight: Warren Perlman, Ceridian

What roles are the most difficult to fill? "Highly qualified database administrators (DBAs) and data scientists are still a rare breed..."

Name: Warren Perlman

Company: Ceridian

Job title: CIO

Time in current role: Since October 2014, so nearly four years

Location: Toronto, CA

With over 20 years of experience, Warren Perlman serves as the Chief Information Officer at Ceridian. He is responsible for the organization's global information technology requirements and leads the design, delivery and management of Ceridian's technology infrastructure. Additionally, he supports and helps grow Ceridian's business with IT excellence to ensure compliance, protection and security for all data. Warren's strategic initiatives prioritize performance, scalability and responsiveness for the company and customers focused on improved service delivery, self-service capabilities and agile business models for cloud solutions.

What was your first job? My first job was delivering newspapers until I was old enough to work in retail.  My first "real" role was as a corporate web master for one of the world's largest ERP companies.

Did you always want to work in IT? Ever since my parents got me my first computer at the age of six, I've been drawn to technology. There's no question that my Sinclair ZX Spectrum was my favorite possession! From there, my interests expanded into programming, networking, security design and ultimately in the hosting and cloud space. It makes sense that I was drawn to IT from such an early age - I love problem solving, deep thinking and understanding the needs of a business. Every day offers a new challenge.  

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I attended York University in Toronto.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I've been in the industry for nearly 20 years - but I'm an entrepreneur first and foremost. I've always been committed to finding creative solutions to fix existing business issues. With David Ossip, I cofounded Dayforce, which was acquired by Ceridian in 2012. Before that, I was a co-founder of Workbrain.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organization in the coming year? Ceridian's transformation was rooted in a shift to SaaS and the cloud - and today strong innovation and technology continue to be keys to our success. Our CEO David Ossip had the vision that led our team to where we are today. Moving forward, success means the continuation of innovation in the human capital management space and an unrelenting focus on customer satisfaction.

One area we're focused on is big data. Organizations are creating more data than ever - which can be beneficial to revenue, growth, process and people innovations. Yet we're only as good as our ability to process and use this information. We're driving IT cloud solutions that combine machine learning and predictive analytics to help us capitalize on available data.  

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? From an IT perspective, our priorities include performance, scalability and responsiveness for the company and customers. We plan to focus on improved service delivery, self-service capabilities and agile business models for cloud solutions - areas which will grow the business in the cloud and improve service so we can continue to have happy customers.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? The role of the Chief Information Officer is expanding and becoming more customer-facing, as the position plays a more prominent function in client acquisition and relations. My responsibilities as CIO include cloud operations, security, network operations, server, storage, desktop, VDI and devOps. Underpinning all of that is driving innovation and a culture of agility throughout the company. In my role, I also help to add the flavor and culture of a startup to a more established company - although you certainly wouldn't find that on my job description. I also thrive on engaging with our customers. We want open, honest feedback and our customers' input helps us to deliver better products day in and day out.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasize customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Ceridian's technology organization is top of the line: we have a strong, dedicated team that allows us to keep customers happy; manage efficiency of our operations; and nimbly deal with whatever the next crisis may be. 

At Ceridian, employee experience is our number one goal, the second is customer experience, and third is product excellence because we know that talent is our most important asset. As such, we're dedicated to preparing our own workforce for the changing digital age. We make sure that everyone is best positioned to work together and innovate, no matter his or her generation or role. In addition to making sure they have access to top-notch tech, we offer our employees extensive learning and development opportunities so they can stay up to date on the latest technology and so we can engage them throughout the organization. Focusing on workforce engagement has led to the best business outcomes for us.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? Our digital business is very mature.  We have metrics to support every aspect of operations and value - cost to run, cost to build, and everything in between.

What does good culture fit look like in your organization? How do you cultivate it? Here at Ceridian, the mission matters - possibly more than anything else. In fact, a strong culture is an integral part of our organization and business strategy. When we have happy employees, we have happy customers.

We're vocal about living our values, which are customer focus, transparency, diligence, optimism and agility. To help our employees live out this culture, we have active, ongoing communication from the top-down about our mission, purpose and values - and we regularly check-in with how employees are feeling about their company culture. For example, we recently conducted a company-wide survey at Ceridian where our employees told us that we've done a good job at highlighting our values - they know each one and have seen them demonstrated. 

For us, a good culture means that employees have bought in to the mission and vision of the company; are supported by colleagues and peers, and feel like they have the chance to make a difference. In fact, our recent Pulse of Talent Survey found that employees are at their best when they have good relationships, strong teams, and clearly articulated company values.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Highly qualified database administrators (DBAs) and data scientists are still a rare breed, and security expertise is hard to find. I anticipate AI being the next big job skills gap.

What's the best career advice you ever received? CIOs need to plan for the unexpected. From keeping your mind open to new solutions, to tackling unforeseen challenges, CIOs must keep calm and prepare for anything and everything to happen on a given day.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. A succession plan is mandatory.  Surround yourself with smart people - smarter than you.  Encourage and mentor, deliver and recognize, represent by example.  Employee satisfaction and engagement lead to success.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Preparation for an IT leadership role depends on how you view the challenge. As an entrepreneur, I am used to building companies from scratch. Each one was a unique learning experience, depending on the type of technology and situation. I know I was better prepared for each new opportunity because of each past experience. For any aspiring IT professional, the real preparation comes from familiarizing yourself with the technology landscape and then constantly learning and adjusting. It's hard to keep up with today's pace, but you'll stand out if you prioritize your own education.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Without question, my successes are based on the team that surrounds me. I am extremely proud of the team we have built at Ceridian. Successes for the collective team include a full deployment to Office 365 in under 18 months and significant operational improvements while reducing duplicity and expenses. Ceridian also recently went public, listing on both the New York and Toronto stock exchanges in April. This was a company-wide effort and a true moment of pride for me and the Ceridian team.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? It's not in me to look back - I focus on the future and on personal improvement. I believe that's the key to success.

What are you reading now? The Wolf in CIO's Clothing - by Tina Nunno

Most people don't know that I… Ride a motorcycle.

In my spare time, I like to…Spend time with my family, focus on fitness and binge Netflix to decompress. Turn work off, turn fun on and go…well, almost. I'm always available to Ceridian, our customers, partners and employees.

Ask me to do anything but… Go shopping at a mall - my greatest pet peeve. Wandering aimlessly doesn't sit well with me. I need a plan and focus for real tangible results.