Governing Body Spotlight
Co-Chair of the Detroit CIO Community
VP & CIO
David Behen has served as Vice President and Chief Information Officer (CIO) at La-Z-Boy Incorporated since June 2017. In this role, he leads the award-winning information technology (IT) function across the enterprise, aligning technology with the company’s business objectives.
Behen works to ensure optimal technology performance and cybersecurity for La-Z-Boy in support of the company’s future growth and success across manufacturing and retail operations. His responsibilities include IT strategy, cybersecurity, enterprise architecture, enterprise resource planning (ERP) deployment, network optimization and procuring new technologies.
Prior to joining La-Z-Boy, Behen spent over six years as a cabinet member for Governor Rick Snyder as the Director of Department of Technology, Management and Budget, and Chief Information Officer for the State of Michigan. There, he led a department that employed 2,800 associates with an annual operating budget of $1.4 billion. Under Behen’s direction, Michigan established itself as a national leader in the IT arena, delivering a portfolio of high-impact and innovative initiatives aimed at improving government through technology.
Earlier, Behen founded a software company, InfoReady, and served as a vice president and CIO of its parent company. He also worked as CIO and Deputy County Administrator of Washtenaw County, Michigan.
Behen holds several board and committee positions in professional and technology organizations. He is a co-chair of the governing body for the Detroit CIO Executive Summit and is a member of the National Retail Federation CIO Executive and Cybersecurity councils, as well as the National Cybersecurity Alliance. He was also recently a member of the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees.
Behen frequently serves as a keynote speaker, expert panelist, and moderator for national and international audiences providing expertise on information technology, cybersecurity, data management, and leadership. He is passionate about empathetic leadership.
Behen earned his Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Science degrees from Eastern Michigan University.
Learn more about leaders in the Detroit CIO community here.
Give us a brief overview of the path that led to your current role.
My first professional role out of graduate school was City Manager of Mattawan, a small city on the west side of Michigan. We dabbled in putting e-information on our website, one of the first communities to do that. I started to really enjoy technology and how it enabled businesses and organizations to disseminate information. (I figured the world wide web might stick around!) From there, I went to Washtenaw County, working in the county administrator’s office. They asked me to head an e-government initiative that led me to becoming the first CIO of Washtenaw County in 2004. I moved on to become VP and CIO at GDI, running their government practice. There I helped create a product that became its own company, InfoReady.
I was invited by Governor Snyder to be CIO of the State of Michigan in 2011, which eventually evolved into being the Director of Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget. Today, I am VP & CIO of La-Z-Boy Incorporated. I love that I get to transform companies and organizations with technology. Working across business verticals and helping companies reach their goals using technology keeps me excited and motivated to meet each new challenge!
What is one of your guiding leadership principles?
One of my guiding principles is to hire great people, give them the knowledge, tools, and resources to do their job well, trust them, and then I get out of their way! I just want to be a great coach. I can’t effectively do my job without my team.
With disruption being a key theme of the past year, where do you see your role as a CIO going in the next 1-2 years?
Reliance on technology is only going to increase over time, making right now a great time to be in technology. CIOs and companies are relying more and more on data and security than ever before. I think the role of the CIO is going to come into the spotlight. It’s a great time to be in technology because your ability to partner with the business and innovate with those partners has never been more needed or expected.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the role as a CIO?
I would tell them to be humble; remember the things you did that got you to that position, those are the things you should continue to do. Remember that it is about the team, not the individual, and always continue to learn. The field and the technology changes faster than you can change, but continue to be open to learning and educate yourself throughout your career.
Tell us 3 fun facts about yourself.
- I’m running my first marathon this year.
- I’m one of eight children in my family.
- One of my undergrad majors was Soviet Union Studies.
What is the value of participating in a professional community through Evanta?
As with any group, networking and having peers that you feel comfortable communicating with is critical to success. Evanta gives you the opportunity to have that community and to grow and develop in a safe but challenging space. Plus I’ve met and made a lot of cool friends through the years!
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