To provide perspective on how American CIOs manage vendor relationships I talked to Sam Lamonica, Vice President and CIO of Rosendin Electric, and non-executive director on the boards of several technology vendors in Silicon Valley.

Far from just a garden variety American CIO, Lamonica was selected as one of Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders in 2012. In the same year he was a finalist for the "Bay Area Best CIO Award".

Much of the media interest resulted from how Lamonica used mobile technology to help Rosendin Electric's workforce get the supplies they need in a more predictable fashion. To make the mobile solutions work, Lamonica had to reach out to suppliers and get them to agree to put QR codes on job materials ordered by Ronsendin Electric. QR codes allows a mobile application to track a shipment all the way to the job site - and even down to the building, floor, and wing where the material needs to go.

While he's not working one of his day jobs, Lamonica finds the time for several hobbies, including ballroom dancing. He has even sat on several boards for organisations that have more to do with his pastimes than with his professional role.

It's precisely because Lamonica did a lot of professional networking that he was able to find new solutions before the rest of the crowd. Since much of his networking involved getting close to vendors without stepping out of bounds, I thought it would be useful to UK CIOs to hear his answers to two very simple, direct questions.

Pat Brans: You have been non-executive director on the boards of four technology vendors: SanDisk, Validity, YouSendIt and GroundWorks. What's in it for you?
Sam Lamonica: Our headquarters are located right here in the heart of Silicon Valley. So we have the luxury of being surrounded by some of the greatest, smartest technologists in the world. Our company likes to stay ahead of the curve. All the way up to our CEO, the company likes embracing new technologies and likes to be on the leading edge.

From my point of view, getting close to vendors helps me see what's out there. It helps me know what vendors think about, and how they try to position their products. It also helps us know how to identify vendors who aren't as smart about it. From my point of view as a CIO it helps me find out what's out there.

It has also exposed me to some really smart organisations, and helped me develop as a business man.

From the vendors' points of view, the arrangement is useful because they get to bounce idea of me. They want to know how to gain market share. They want to know how to get into the CIOs office, how to sell to the CIO. The last thing they want to do is show up at a CIO's office and insult him or her. By getting input from me, they can improve their sales approach.

PB: How do you manage conflicts of interest?
SL: I treat these guys as I would treat any other vendor. Just because I'm giving them advice and counsel on their products and services doesn't mean they get carte blanche into my environment.