CIO Spotlight: Donald Logan, Friedman LLP

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? "At Friedman, the most significant initiatives will definitely be cloud, automation and business intelligence systems.

Name: Donald Logan

Company: Friedman LLP

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: December 2018

Location: New York, NY

Don serves as CIO at Friedman LLP, a top-50 accounting and advisory firm based in New York with offices in New Jersey, Long Island, Philadelphia and Beijing. He has over 20 years experience providing strategic IT guidance to professional services firms, and his efforts across countless projects have helped boost profits, productivity and customer satisfaction. At Friedman, his responsibilities include transforming IT and leveraging new tools to best meet the needs of clients in the rapidly evolving accounting and auditing fields.

What was your first job? Beginning at 13 I already held a few jobs; including working at a gas station part-time, for NYC Police Precinct 123, at my local public pool in New York City and as a newspaper delivery boy. My first professional job was with the US Navy as a Special Warfare Operator, and eventually as an Aviation Electrician based on the USS Enterprise in Alameda, California. During my service I performed electronic warfare, intelligence and surveillance functions, as well as aerial refuelling around the world during the First Gulf War. It was that job that first introduced me to computerised systems as a professional career.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes. I first became interested in working with anything I could get my hands on as a little kid. Taking things apart and putting them back together was a hobby, mainly because of my dad and my grandfather's interest and guidance. Once Commodore and Atari arrived in the consumer market, I was fascinated with emerging technologies and knew I wanted to work with them. From there, I started learning how to build PCs and program in various platforms.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? The US Navy has a very comprehensive educational system which I benefited from. Also, utilising my GI Bill, I attended various schools and universities all over the country and ultimately attended an "IT" school. I hold close to 20 certifications from various vendors including Microsoft, Novell, CompTIA, Cisco, Compaq and Dell.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I started out working with hardware and anything that was hands-on. The Navy opened up opportunities for me to learn about computerised systems and electronics, so I really engaged with being an engineer with a focus on electrical and electronics - which ultimately led me into IT.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? At Friedman, the most significant initiatives will definitely be cloud, automation and business intelligence systems.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Our leadership expects us to be very competitive in our market and to have a strategic advantage over our competitors using technology. Cloud-based technology has matured to the point where we can leverage and connect dissimilar applications and data across the company to deliver an efficient and improved user and client experience. Having effective, efficient and available technology to everyone is our goal. It's not about where you work, but rather how you work to complete the projects you're participating in.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? The CIO role has evolved and will continue to do so, so certainly the nature of responsibilities will change. For instance, some CIOs have evolved from doing hands-on work, such as system administration or networking, to more analytical and strategic work. However, several of those old skills stay with you and tend to be useful from time to time. Depending on the company, the CIO may wear different hats, sometimes needing to pull out some of those early skills or use new ones. In general, though, the CIO should always be looking at skills which make them more business-savvy. As we leverage the cloud, commoditised roles like networking and system administration are no longer needed, bringing more opportunity for the CIO and her team to be more strategic and valuable to the company. I am always looking to learn and do something I haven't done yet; if I have skills that can support or elevate the company, I'm going to find a way to use them.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Digital transformation and its effect on customer experience, revenue and operations is an area that's a constant work in progress for every company. Some things may work right away, and some may fail. Using the SMART Goals method really helps balance the mix. Our main goal is to ensure that our internal and external client experience is as strong as it can be. Technology definitely holds a key role in ensuring that this happens, which can result in by-products like revenue growth or efficiency. Sometimes, a new solution may even check the box for a number of categories. Consolidation and automation are where client experiences, efficiencies, and growth thrive at Friedman.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? Business intelligence plays a huge role in our company. Without metrics or KPIs, we have nothing to base important decisions on or where to make adjustments. Guesswork takes more work than frameworks such as a business intelligence or an artificial intelligence platform. I have a dozen KPIs that I use to make sure that IT is running optimally. Our department is run like a business, and the net result is much higher than if it were run like just another department. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Culture at Friedman comes from many places including our recruiters, HR team, partners and support staff. Having team members with personality, character, integrity, honesty and other core values is what creates and fosters the culture. From interns to the C-Suite, I feel everyone does a great job creating and fostering a consistent culture and atmosphere, especially across all of our offices. Our clients and vendors have an important role in our culture as well, as we partner and work with them on a daily basis.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? There's definitely been a change within IT in the past few years. Right now, we see the need for IT analysts. Someone who has analytical skills, problem solving skills and project management skills is typically a good fit for that position. Finding someone with business or industry-specific skills and technical skills are tough to find. Constant training of your staff is a major key to filling that void.

What's the best career advice you ever received? When I was told to get into "computers" by an early mentor, they stressed that it's okay to fail, just as long as you never quit.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. My succession plan is the team I lead. I am working with my team who have a lot of talent and experience, and am in the process of "training up" a few people for leadership roles. That said, we're taking a slow pace and making sure we're all on the same on the same page. I've learned that training your team today is valuable for tomorrow. We need to be prepared for the next big thing. Without training, it's almost impossible to catch up when the time comes, and by then it's too late. Investing in the future always pays off.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Don't overthink, go with your gut, don't over explain, simplify everything, treat your team like family, be engaged and have fun where you can.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Having worked with many successful IT people I coached, mentored, managed or directed over the years, who I am now lucky to call friends.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Work-life balance is definitely something I would have focused on slightly more. IT leadership is a very demanding job, especially within our industry, and I'm proud that Friedman places an emphasis on a balance for all of its employees, including in IT.

What are you reading now? Leadership and management books. I'm currently reading "Extreme Ownership" and "Dare to Lead".

Most people don't know that I… am a musician and performed at Carnegie Hall and some local venues. I also have three black belts and have competed in and won tournaments across the country. To that end, I focus a lot of my time volunteering at and instructing martial arts clubs, along with the NYC Police Academy.

In my spare time, I like to…read, work on renovating my house, spend time with my family, play my instruments, watch sports and visit Disney World.

Ask me to do anything but… the dishes.