CIO Spotlight: Scott Laverty, Shane Company

What's the best career advice you ever received? "Surround yourself with people smarter than you (even if you think they make take your job some day)"

Name: Scott Laverty

Company: Shane Company

Job title: EVP CIO

Date started current role: November 2015

Location: Denver, CO

Scott Laverty has more than 30 years' experience in information systems and retail, working in senior management positions within the nation's leading business strategy and consulting firms as well as with major retailers in IT, supply chain and inventory management, distribution and finance positions. Laverty is currently the Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Western Stone and Metal (dba Shane Co. Jewelers) and is responsible for the overall vision, strategic direction and tactical execution of all information technology systems including application development, store systems, digital platform, infrastructure and operations. 

What was your first job?   I managed the Treasury Department Cash Desk at Ameritech Mobile Communications, the first cellular network in the US.

Did you always want to work in IT? I characterise myself as an accidental CIO. I taught myself IT concepts so that I could gain access to data and functionality that the IT department said was impossible. After many years of advising CIO's, I ended up stepping into the role. It was never my planned career path.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have an MS Finance from Louisiana State University.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. Like many CIO's today, I started on the business side. My first focus was in finance where I managed treasury functions and later moved to strategic planning. I gained interest in logistics and inventory management as a result of the planning efforts and moved into that side of the business where I performed inventory management/planning, assortment management and size management for several retailers. During that time, following Sun Tzu, I learned the ways of my enemies in IT and formed an understanding of databases, networks and application development. Eventually my ability to straddle business and IT landed me over a decade in consulting where I provided retail consulting services focused primarily in supply chain management, IT/CIO advisory, system integration, application development, ERP and change management. My first shot at the CIO role came when the new CEO of a former client asked "who was the last person to do something right in IT". Turned out it was me when I salvaged a failed Oracle Retail implementation for Borders Group. And so started my career as a CIO.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? We are in the midst of a digital transformation and continue to focus on improving our website and in-store customer experience.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Our CEO has challenged the company to "Focus Passionately on the Priorities that Drive Profitable Results". Pursuant to that challenge, the leadership team has agreed to a list of "blue chip" priorities for the year. IT was involved in the development of our blue chips and are completely aligned with the effort associated with each.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? The days of limiting CIO's to just technology (or as an order taker) have long past. CIO's today must understand and participate in forming the overall company strategy, must grasp the nuances of building shareholder value and must align technology efforts with business requirements.

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? We have been undergoing digital transformation for two years now and we have effectively balanced between improving customer experience and driving revenue growth. This has been accomplished by partnering with the EVP Marketing to jointly share that vision with the rank and file and aggressively grooming our backlog with the goals in mind.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? While we have been online since 2000, the recent digital transformation finds us still in the learning stages. Our KPI's are focused on the customer and driving revenue - we don't try to quantify the value of IT, but rather view performance of the organisation as a whole.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Great communication skills, embracing the fail fast philosophy, strong team player, driven. Culture is cultivated by living and breathing it every day at all levels of the organisation regardless of challenge or circumstance.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? The IT unemployment rate is below 1% in Denver, so we have trouble sourcing all levels.

What's the best career advice you ever received? Surround yourself with people smarter than you (even if you think they make take your job some day).

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Not at this point.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? If you want to have a successful career in technology, you have to have a deep understanding of your business and be attuned to your customer.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Mentoring folks that have gone on to do great things.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Realised that I can't fix everything and everyone - I have had a tendency to hold on to folks longer than I should and have realised that it is often better to cut your losses (and the organisation always seems to breathe a sigh of relief when you finally move on).

What are you reading now? "The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth" by Michael Mandelbaum and some mindless Sci-Fi.

Most people don't know that I… was born in Punxsutawney, PA, home of Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog Day.

In my spare time, I like to…Read and play with my grandchildren.

Ask me to do anything but… Sing, you really don't want to hear me sing…