Chris Arrigali, Global VP of IT at The Results Co., integrated his department into the overall business,interpreting its functionsto non-IT staff
Soccer midfielders are expected to be excellent runners and ball handlers who are ready to jump in to defend or attack at any point in the game. So as an accomplished midfielder who is right handed and left footed, Chris Arrigali’s game is all about striking a balance—both at work and at play.
“It’s a position that balances offense and defense, and that really translates well into what I do here,” said Arrigali, Global Vice President (VP) of Information Technology (IT) at The Results Cos., who has been playing soccer since age five.
Indeed, Arrigali spends his days balancing the technical aspects of his job with the challenges of managing a team, maintaining relationships with key vendor partners (Verizon and Sprint among them) and communicating with the larger organization. While the IT Department once spent most of its man-hours responding to fix-it requests, it now aims to be an integral part of the company’s recipe for overall business success.
“Typically, IT organizations are looked at as a black box, as a cost center,” he said. “And the IT organization tends to speak a different language.”
Since joining Results, Arrigali has moved into the role of interpreter, aiming to educate his own staff about the rest of the business while also explaining to executives outside of IT what really goes on inside the black box. Before, many IT staffers may have known little about the big goals of the company, which manages call centers and other services for a largely Fortune-500 client base; likewise, the rest of the executive team may not have realized how the IT Department could help them reach those objectives.
“It was really the tail wagging the dog because you can’t really define the IT plan without understanding the business plan,” Arrigali said. “So it’s a two-way street. Describing the IT organization today, there’s a lot more transparency, a lot more trust and a lot more communication.”
Chain of Command
Much of that communication takes place between Arrigali and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Angelo Gencarelli. Arrigali says it makes sense for him to report to the CFO rather than to Chief Executive Officer Alec Brecker given that technology spending at the company comes second only to outlays on call center growth. This unique chain of command allows Brecker to spend more time focusing on the business’s big picture. At the same time, having the head of IT report to the CFO ensures that every dollar spent on technology eventually contributes to expanding the core business overall.
“At the end of the day, regardless of who reports to who, it’s all about transparency and communication,” Arrigali said. “Reporting to our CFO keeps our project priorities aligned with the business’ strategies and puts me in the best position to execute our technology plan and roadmap, which enables the business plan.”
Redrawing the Map
The roadmap was somewhat undefined when Arrigali joined Results in 2012. He inherited a relatively small staff, who was overworked simply trying to handle the necessities. Becoming more engaged in the business as a whole first required making some key hires and asking others who had once been content behind a computer screen to flex their management muscle or take on other challenges.
“When I came to the organization, we were definitely a thin organization and the idea was to get from thin to lean,” Arrigali said.
The shift has enabled the company to become more responsive to its clients. Like demanding coaches, clients value speed and agility when launching new businesses or implementing projects that must meet diverse and sometimes changing needs. On a separate but related note, Arrigali played NCAA Division I soccer at Marist College and was a member of the US O-35 men’s soccer team that played at the 2011 Pan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“What does separate us from our competition,” Arrigali said, “is our ability to execute, and that is a direct reflection on the team we have built with the right folks on the bus, playing to win. It’s essential to be able to drive the bus as fast as possible without the wheels coming off.”
Given the need for speed, it’s a good thing Arrigali is accustomed to being behind the wheel. Before joining Results, he held VP titles at Crawford & Co. and TMX Finance. Working at these sizeable financial services firms gave him executive-level experience in managing large numbers of people and overseeing burgeoning capital and operational budgets. The know-how has helped him understand what The Results Cos. needed in order to expand and take its IT organization and comprehensive business to that same level, and beyond.
“The things that I love the most are building IT departments that have a seat at the table,” Arrigali said. “So, from one organization to the next, that has been the common thread.”
Prior positions in the areas of consulting, technical project management and software pre-sales provided Arrigali, who earned a bachelor’s in Business Administration and Computer Information Systems from Marist, with the heavy technical background he carried forward with him in his career. But it was extroverted experiences, including his time on the soccer field and early career assignments participating in the sales cycle—performing presentations and demonstrations to decision-makers in Fortune 500 companies as a Technical Support Manager at Software Engineering of America—that led him to believe he might be able to manage people as well as information systems.
It wasn’t always a straight shot at the goal, though. Along the way, Arrigali sometimes tapped technologists for roles outside of the traditional box. Other times, he moved people out of management who were better suited to stay in the confines of the computer world.
“It’s a delicate balance to arrive at technically,” he said. “Because technology issues are fairly straightforward, but managing people isn’t as black and white.”
Arrigali credits mentors, including his parents and Nick Coussoule, former Senior VP and Chief Information Officer at Crawford, with helping him stay the course in his career while also allowing him to pursue his passion on the soccer field. Although he still plays with Atlanta’s Wings Soccer Club today, he considers his stint on the Pan American team to be the culmination of that lifelong love as well as the perfect segue into his position at Results.
“It was really one of the pinnacles of my playing career,” Arrigali said, “and to go from something like that into this work-hard, play-hard environment was an ideal fit.”
Soccer can be a rare hybrid in which coaching is key and teamwork is essential, but also individual players can become international superstars. The work world can be much the same, and sometimes the most difficult aspect of becoming a manager is learning to let go of the starring role you have on your team in order to step to the sidelines.
“[It is a] very difficult and delicate balance to maintain—those who approach the fork in the road in their career path where they aren’t ready to let go of the hands-on technical responsibilities they have had to date as senior members of their respective teams, but do want to cross the bridge into management of those areas,” Arrigali said.
And so, as a company leader, he spends part of his time mentoring potential managers and creating dual roles that allow them to cross the bridge between technologist and supervisor one step at a time.
“We are fortunate at Results to be at a size where these unique roles have presented themselves, and we can position these folks for success and establish a win-win for both the individual as well as the IT organization,” he said. “Helping our employees realize their potential and develop their career path is one of the aspects of my job I find most rewarding.”
But not every player is ready or willing to hang up their cleats in favor of a spot on the coach’s bench, and there’s room for both kinds of teammates in every organization.
“Going back to the sports world, not every great player can be a great coach. So, at the end of the day, not every technician can be a great manager,” Arrigali said. “Also, there’s time for individual achievement and there’s time for working toward a greater goal. I would say it’s definitely key to strike that balance”
Charlene Oldham is a freelance writer based in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Chris's Key PartnersBeacon Communications (Telecommunications Carrier Broker) | Altitude Software (Software Vendor) | Atlantix Global Systems (IT Reseller) | Avnet (HP/EMC Hardware)
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