The first CFO ever named to our list, Mike Smiley was nominated as a leader who “intuitively understands” enterprise technology and serves as co-executive sponsor of the data governance steering committee at Zebra, a manufacturer of radio frequency identification technologies.

Along with product master data management, Zebra is investing in ERP, an undertaking to which Smiley is obligated. “Data is critical to our business and we have struggled with that,” he says. Three Zebra execs from business sit on the committee; Smiley sees his job as corralling resources and supporting the roadmap process. “You realize there are different levels to a vision like this.”

Moving to an integrated ERP solution is a mandate for good data and transaction entry, he adds.  “There is a lot of process adjustment and fixing things mid-process, a real cultural event. This is one of those significant events where a C-level person like myself and my colleague put our names to it. It’s a bully pulpit you use carefully, but you should put your name on something when you really think it’s important to the success of the whole company.”

As a high tech manufacturer, Smiley expects internal expertise to also contribute to organic growth. Having implemented Oracle Warehouse Management internally, Zebra has applied its own RFID location technology to the solution in ways that ought to be repeatable.

“I think of our IT side almost like an offensive player in our business in that we have a strong awareness of how technology can build and support a business and its decisions. As we learn and leverage that knowledge and experience inside the organization it can only make us better in the market.”

Quotable: “You have to earn respect in your communication and coordination. A skill that is really challenging and critical is the ability to persuade and educate. Some people are happiest when you just dictate, but it’s better to get people’s hearts and engagement through reason and passion.” 

Read about the next 2012 honoree.

To read more about the 25 Top Information Managers, click here.

To view the slide show of all 2012 honorees, click here.

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