Interview with Ronald White, Former VP and Chief Process Improvement Officer, O-I

CIO Strategy Meeting, August 22-23, 2016, Chicago

Risk Management is a learned skill, not simply asking, “Do you see the risk?”


Ronald White, Former VP and Chief Process Improvement Officer, IO explains why a robust change management and risk management function is mission critical to IT Projects.


  1. How important is the IT Portfolio Management in delivering the return on IT Investment? Why?

In some ways, the question really isn’t about delivering a return, but about convincing a business partner there IS a return to IT investment. I do not think I’ve ever seen an IT department that does not have a difficult time convincing their business leaders that IT investment can compete toe-to-toe with other investment options outside of IT from a return perspective. IT Portfolio Management can provide a window and hard data to help an IT department make their investment case and without investment, there is no return.

Further, strong IT portfolio management can help prioritize and focus an organization, so a team can do a few things very well, vs. doing many things poorly. It can give IT leaders a process for selecting the most impactful initiatives which will help deliver more value and further justify IT investment.

  1. How should organizations assess their IT investments and realize the risks involved?

There is no magic in doing solid, robust business cases and risk assessments. These business cases and risk assessments MUST be maintained and updated during the entire project or program life cycle. It is critical that an IT team has team members with experience and capabilities in financial and risk management, but this alone is not enough. The IT team members with these skills must team with their counterparts in the finance and risk functions to ensure alignment and consensus. It may sound inefficient, but too often, IT is ignored because there is a view they don’t have the proper financial and business acumen.

Once a robust business case and risk profile is done properly, the rest of the process is relatively easy and requires a prioritization approach that should exist at the enterprise level, not just inside IT.

  1. In your view, what will be the critical factors to prepare organizations for the risks they are prepared to take?

When it comes to IT projects, a very robust change management and risk management function is mission critical. Again, there is no short cut to dealing with risk. There is risk and without careful planning and team members focused on documenting it and ultimately mitigating it, success will be a mirage. Teams should seek to understand what world class change management looks like. When you ask the question, and you get back “blah, blah, communication and things”, you know you have a problem. Same with risk management. It is a learned skill, not simply asking, “do you see risk?”.

With the proper change management to communicate risk and mitigation approaches and a risk management plan to help guide the project/program, organizations will be as prepared as they can be.

  1. How would you define a successful IT Portfolio Management?

An IT team should be able to answer the ‘what’, the ‘what not’, the ‘why’, the ‘how much’, and the ‘when’ questions at any time AND at any level. This means the team knows what initiatives are active, which ones are not, why they are active or not active, how much they cost (along with business case) and what the delivery commitments look like (and how you a performing against those commitments). If you can do this succinctly and clearly, you have a successful portfolio management function in my view.

  1. Why have you decided to join us at the CIO Strategy meeting and what would you like to share at the meeting?

As a consultant and then a CIO, I’ve seen what defines success and failure in so many IT organizations. To a certain extent, the more successful we are as an industry, the more successful each of us can become. I have a passion for sharing my experiences, learning how i can get better, and helping others succeed by not making the same mistakes over and over again.