Premier 100 IT Leader: Ryan Boone

Hands-on work in the business units prepares this CIO's team for building on-target systems.

Ryan Boone has a simple philosophy for blending IT with the business at discount retailer Dollar General: "Do the work."

"I want the IT team to actually perform the specific [business] activity or task before they start building or buying systems to automate or improve the process," even if the work is as simple as checking inventory at one of Dollar General's 11,500 stores, he says.

"If the IT person at the start of the project really understands [the process], then they can help automate, program or improve it more efficiently, quicker and cleaner," without the prolonged back-and-forth between business leaders and IT, he explains. "They knock down all those barriers upfront."

Boone, 48, joined the Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based company in 2008 after serving at Yum Brands for a decade, the final three years as CIO at Pizza Hut. He began his IT career at American Airlines and Sabre in the 1980s, working on flight scheduling and reservation systems. He went on to help Fidelity Investments transition its customer experience to the Internet in the 1990s.

At Dollar General, his team's hands-on experience allowed IT to help 900 field leaders spend less time gathering "rear-view" reports in the office and more time in the stores. Boone says IT replaced those employees' laptops with tablets and created a mobile suite of apps that gather real-time statistics on key performance indicators for each store. "The response has been overwhelmingly positive," he says.

Going forward, Boone will continue to leverage technology to deliver on Dollar General's value proposition of price and convenience to business units, stores and customers. "If we can make it easier," he says, "we will."

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