CIO Spotlight: Savio Lobo, Ensono

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? “Understand how you are supporting the business, prioritise your time by sizing the impact of your activities…”


Name: Savio Lobo

Company: Ensono

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: April 2018

Location: Illinois, US

Savio Lobo brings over 20 years of experience in varying technology roles with growing accountability for building various functions and teams. Most recently, he was Vice President of Architecture and Infrastructure at NiSource, Inc. In that past, he led several successful IT integrations and delivered complex technology programs which enabled business growth and significant improvements in client satisfaction. He serves on the board of a not for profit called The Harbour which addresses the needs of Cook County youth at risk for homelessness. To unwind, Lobo practices Taekwondo and rides a motorcycle.

What was your first job? My first job was as an end user support and network engineer.

Did you always want to work in IT? After graduating college I’ve generally worked in Information Technology. However, while I was studying for electrical engineering, I had two semesters when I worked in power plant operations and in pre-production planning for an air circuit breaker manufacturer.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I hold a Licentiate in Electrical Engineering and a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and Engineering. 

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. The major detour in my career occurred when I pursued Computer Science after completing studies in Electrical Engineering.

With my first job out of college, I worked on solving end user IT issues but also repaired computers, servers, printers and installed network hardware and software. As I performed my work, I realised that the many businesses I visited really needed help with applications and processes. This led me to seek a job in programming where I went through some rigorous training on software development and was subsequently assigned to work with a “4 GL” application development platform. It was a great experience after which I programmed on various other languages, platforms and systems from PC based to mainframes.

Modelling data and processes to meet the business needs gave me a lot of satisfaction, especially when this work helped drive significant business challenges. Soon I realised that enterprise architecture is critical to driving optimisation, innovation and long-term sustainable change and I spent many years leading that discipline while also managing teams that planned and executed large complex initiatives. This also fuelled my interest in managing financials for the large projects and for the IT department. It became apparent to me that strategic planning and financial management go hand in hand. I came to my current role by signing up to lead a complex integration resulting from a large acquisition. After executing the acquisition and integrating basic operations, we embarked on an ambitious transformation of the combined entities driving the need to create a dedicated program management office, consolidate internal IT application, infrastructure, security and data analytics teams. This is my first job working for a managed services provider after having worked for various businesses and my past experiences often help me represent a client perspective which is not always intuitive to those who have worked on the other side of the fence their whole careers.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? I’ll answer this question broadly in the context of the business. Key initiatives for us this year and over the next few years are:

Orchestration and Automation through use of workflows, integrations between SaaS applications, leveraging AI, RPA etc.

Delivering proactive business insights with Management and Operational analytics using data lakes, lake houses, analytical tools etc.

Enabling scale and agility with disciplined simplification of the processes and technology to conduct day to day business

Making our highly cyber secure practices easier to execute during day-to-day operations with the use of new security technology

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Our business plans call for growth and 100% client retention by delivering the highest level of reliability and innovative products to support our clients’ growth at a competitive price point. To that end, IT is expected to support scaling the business and to enable agility while ensuring effective controls and delivering insights to proactively manage our business.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? Every organisation has different expectations of the CIO role, depending on what the business needs at a given point in time, and I’d venture to say that there probably never been a “conventional” CIO role. As an example, when an organisation is in a start up mode, often the CIO is simply enabling the fastest path to get individual business functions up and running. As an organisation matures, they might need the CIO to drive integration across functions and drive efficiency beyond which they might want to enable scale through technology consolidation or migration to new enterprise solutions. If they acquire a large business, they might need a CIO who can drive business and technology integration.

When the product or value proposition is technology, the CIO must be a key business leader with product responsibility. For many corporations, the security function may report to the CIO while extremely large corporations which hold large volumes of personal data might require that the Chief Security Officer be a direct report of the CEO. Lastly, the role in an organisation also highly depends on the interest and capabilities of the CIO and division of labour at the executive level. Bottom line, while I personally believe that the CIO should be accountable for all systems, data and security of those systems I don’t view the CIO role as one size fits all. On that note, in addition to system, data and security, our team has responsibility for program management of all significant initiatives regardless of whether they are IT or not and we deliver revenue generating client security services.

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? Who isn’t? And it is always supposed to drive customer experience, revenue growth and efficiency. In addition, there needs to be a focus on internal associate experience. When that occurs, the others follow. I tend to use a combination of complexity, risk, financial benefit and time to achieve results and to prioritise initiatives, while balancing against the need to achieve long term strategy. 

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We do not have a huge focus on KPIs that communicate value as yet. We do report on basic measurements such as financial, operational, project performance, security, client services delivered etc. In 2022 we will develop additional metrics and consider digitisation and automation of business processes as a potential metric.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? A good cultural fit for someone coming into our organisation would be someone that demonstrates our core values of Collaboration, Passion, & Reliability. A leader these days must practice what they expect, and I do my best with simple things like communicating often and effectively, being responsive and available, being transparent, being empathetic and being genuine. 

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? There are always some technical skills that are in demand – at the current time these include cloud and security. However, I find the most difficult roles to fill are leaders who have financial, planning, analytical, communication, collaboration, people management and relevant technical or functional skills. In addition, it seems too hard to find architects and analysts with the right balance of practical versus idealistic design perspectives who effectively question the expected outcome and develop right sized solutions commensurate with the business need. 

What's the best career advice you ever received? A few things that people have told me that have stuck with me:

“What got you here, won’t get you there.”

“Do your job.”

“You can only control what you can control.”

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Yes. While we have several candidates on my succession plan, there is only one who I believe may be “Ready Now”. That being said, I could not have done what I do and expanded my responsibilities without standing on the shoulders of my team. Therefore, I continually work to hand over things I believe I should be able to delegate that will enrich their careers. As an example, it is such a relief when you can blindly trust your team to never be over budget or to raise critical business issues well in advance. It is my belief that succession planning highly depends on the development of all your leaders.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Understand how you are supporting the business, prioritise your time by sizing the impact of your activities, distance yourself from specific vendor solutions, be clear that what you know gets old fast. Don’t cling to the past, people are more important than technology (or as someone I know would say…technology is easy, people are difficult)!

What has been your greatest career achievement? I’ve never quite reflected on this before. I’d say when I was offered mentorship by a CEO that everyone truly admired. I was completely and totally floored, and this stands out as a huge moment in my professional career because it meant more to me than any specific job. It was around the same time that I was promoted to the role of VP with responsibility for some very significant business outcomes and a large annual budget for the first time. This was a big leap from being in a Director role for the longest time in my career and began another phase of learning for me which continues to this day. That’s actually when that CEO told me “What got you here, won’t get you there”… I wish I understood more deeply and acted on his advice sooner!

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? With the shift to remote working, I wish I had spent more time communicating externally and spending more virtual happy hours and 1 on 1 lunches or dinners with my team.

What are you reading now? Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat.

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

In my spare time, I like to…Listen to live local music.

Ask me to do anything but… Do nothing.