Will VA Secretary McDonald Go Back to P&G for His CIO?

Al Behrman/AP File Photo

Just a rumor, but a tantalizing one.

Robert McDonald, the former Procter & Gamble CEO and secretary of Veterans Affairs since Wednesday afternoon, may enlist Filippo Passerini, the P&G chief information officer, as VA CIO, according to medium-strength signals I’ve picked up.

The VA CIO slot has been empty since February 2013, when Roger Baker resigned.

Passerini, born in Italy, has worked for P&G for his entire career since he signed on as a systems analyst in Rome in 1981, after earning a doctorate in statistics and operating research the same year.

In an interview with Forbes in March 2013, Passerini said he did not see himself as a stereotypical CIO, as he also spent portions of his career in marketing. He told Forbes he learned at P&G to treat IT as a commodity enabler of business functions, an indication of the approach he could take at VA.

“We take the view that technology is almost always a commodity,” he said. “It is what you do with it, what business priority you solve, what business capability you enable, what process you render more efficient. This is true value. The conversation should never begin with technology, and our recruiting and training reflect this fact. Therefore, the ideal employee for us is a business person who is passionate about technology, as opposed to the other way around.”

McDonald, at his nomination hearing last month, said he viewed IT as key to improvements in patient care and claims processing.

If Passerini does end up as VA CIO, it will come with a significant financial penalty, as I’m told he currently makes $5 million a year as P&G CIO, a sum not found in government work.