The Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues For 2016

2016 cio oracle forbesThe toughest job in corporate America, says Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, is the CIO’s. While I agree with Hurd’s assessment, I also believe that business-minded, forward-looking CIO’s have an incredible opportunity to play leading roles in the digital/physical revolution that is transforming every facet of our lives.
CIO’s of the world, it’s time to jump into this revolution fearlessly and joyfully because your backgrounds, your perspectives, your expertise, and your imaginations are needed desperately by your companies as they attempt to engage deeply in this richly blended digital/physical mix—or risk slipping into a nonstop decline marked by unfixable difficulties, growing irrelevance, and, ultimately, oblivion.

As Oracle CIO Mark Sunday says, “This is the most challenging time in history to be a CIO, because in order to survive, organisations need to embrace new technologies at an unparalleled pace. But by the same token, CIO’s have never had a better opportunity to add value to their organisations—if they embrace the challenge.”

Welcome to the fourth annual list of the major challenges and opportunities global CIO’s will face in the coming year. In last year’s prognostication, we noted, “Throughout 2014, the CIO profession was subjected to a baffling series of apocalyptic forecasts and dire predictions that have proven to be laughably wrong,” and asked, “Where did all these distortions and misperceptions about the stewards of IT strategy and execution come from?”

And as we head into 2016, I have to say that those prophets of doom, who just 12 to 18 months ago were so doggedly insistent that CIO’s were about to take permanent residence next to the Dodo, have changed their tunes, rewritten their histories, and realised that the vectors of profound change in today’s global economy—cloud computing, the Internet of Things, mobile everywhere, social lifestyles blending with social commerce, and the blurring of enterprise tech and personal tech—point to nothing but a greatly enriched future for smart and aggressive CIO’s.

From our perspective, we see that future coalescing around four key activities or attributes that world-class CIO’s are embracing:

  • Creators of a new cultural outlook of aggressive possibilities, of new products and services, and of new capabilities, all of which are essential building blocks in their company’s digital transformation;
  • Evangelists for cloud computing and its transformative potential, for social business, for data-driven decision-making, and for digital-first thinking throughout the organisation;
  • Transformers of corporate culture as IT pivots from reactive responder to aggressive innovator; from “you’ll take what we give you” to “we’ll accelerate and enhance your initiatives”; and from analog paper-based processes to digital workflows and collaborative approaches driven by data;
  • Accelerators of everything from product development to procurement, and from decision-making to deployment of resources as the epochal shift to cloud computing liberates huge chunks of IT budgets and paves the way for truly customer-centric business.

 

Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues for 2016

  1. Create New Revenue Streams. The digitisation of our everyday lives opens up huge possibilities for IT-inspired innovation in new products, new services, new data-as-a-product offerings, and other innovations that enhance customer engagement while also boosting revenue.
  2. Create a New Can-Do Culture. Cloud computing and the ongoing explosion of social/mobile services offer CIO’s superb building blocks for demonstrating to business units around the world that the IT organisation has permanently shed its “Dr. No” persona, with the initials “IT” now representing what the CIO’s team really stands for: innovation/transformation.
  3. Create Dazzling—and Relevant—New Apps. What percentage of the IT organisation is now focused on building customer-centric apps? How does that figure compare to last year? How much will it grow in 2016? World-class CIO’s will find ways to transform their teams into engines of customer engagement, with app creation at the centre.
  4. Evangelise the Business Benefits of Cloud Computing. Are you talking to the CMO about SOA, or about the lifetime value of customers? In the cloud, product-development cycle times are shorter, customer trends can be spotted more quickly, top performers can co-create career-development plans, and the CFO can stop being a historian. Are you telling these stories clearly and passionately?
  5. Evangelise the Power of Digital Business. As GE CIO Jim Fowler noted above, the marriage of digital capabilities with traditional products and services opens up big possibilities for creating new value for customers—new insights into how products are performing, which new services are most profitable, where to promote certain products at certain times, and which high-performing people are at risk of leaving.
  6. Transform Traditional Ideas/Silos of “What We Do.” Per the opening quotation of this article, wearable tech is starting to turn the medical field upside down, and we’re seeing digitally activated shelves in retail, intelligent sensors revolutionising preventive maintenance, ingestible medications, driverless cars, smart clothing, and much more. How can the CIO disrupt traditional thinking within her company by showcasing what already is, as well as what is possible?
  7. Transform Customer Engagement. A while back, the newly named CIO of one of Asia’s leading airlines described his company’s eye-popping realisation that top customers desired zero human interaction until they were actually on the plane. What customers really want is often greatly at odds with what we as businesses are accustomed to—or comfortable—delivering. In 2016, CIO’s must help lead the way in bridging this gap and driving customer-centric engagements.
  8. Transform Decision-Making from Gut-Level to Data-Driven. Think of the astonishing volumes of data residing within large organisations—and think how few of those valuable assets are being exploited to enhance the decision-making ability of employees at all levels of the company. CIO’s have a perfect opportunity to work with business leaders to unlock those data assets and put them to work in delivering real-world, real-time insights that create success for the business, for customers, and for employees.
  9. Accelerate the Reversal of the 80/20 Budget Trap via Cloud Computing. Before cloud computing, the #1 enemy of the CIO was the economic reality that about 80% of his IT budget would be consumed by low-value maintenance and integration. Because cloud computing pushes that burden over to cloud vendors, CIO’s can liberate huge portions of their budgets and reallocate them to projects centred on growth and customer engagement. The faster this happens, the better.
  10. Accelerate Deployment of World-Class Cybersecurity. The traditional IT operating model was a security nightmare because IT environments were made up of thousands of disparate components cobbled together, with each piece requiring its own unique security protocols. In the cloud, CIO’s have the opportunity to flip that model from thousands of vulnerabilities to a single, unified, top-to-bottom cybersecurity stack where the cloud vendor shoulders that burden. (Oracle believes security has to be built in at every layer of the cloud stack, and that’s become a competitive differentiator for Oracle Cloud.) And remember, cybersecurity is a journey, not a destination. As Sunday has said, “your cybersecurity capabilities need to evolve continuously in order to meet an ever-more sophisticated and ever-evolving threat landscape. Having world-class cybersecurity means having the ability to detect and remediate today’s threats, while maintaining the capability to morph to meet the needs of tomorrow.”

And as 2016 looms, best wishes to all you CIO’s out there for a year filled with achievement, excitement, engagement, and success. I hope it’s a year in which you get to flex those muscles that let you create, evangelise, transform, and accelerate in ways that dazzle and delight your customers, and bring opportunities and success to you and your colleagues. As Christopher Lochhead says, “Knock ‘em alive!”

Full credit for the article to Bob Evans, SVP and Chief Communications Officer for Oracle – Please share your feedback with him on Twitter at @bobevansIT

 

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Everyday Innovation – Small steps to big progress

idgeveryinnovOrganisations can be obsessed with producing the next big industry innovation, and then become profoundly disappointed when it does not occur at the pace or scale they want. Naturally, everyone wants to speed up their innovation cycle beyond one or maybe two genius ideas every one to two years, but this cannot be expected and is exceptionally hard to maintain.

In recent years, we have all seen Apple release game-changing products that disrupt entire markets, but what we don’t know is the lead time from initial idea to market release. The company concentrates and focuses on innovation at a level never before seen in the commercial world: for example, it has over 800 people solely dedicated to working on the iPhone’s camera. It is open about the power of its open and innovative culture, which supports its ability to deliver these amazing products, and more importantly, it’s always quick to register that without the support and efforts of the whole organisation they would not be achievable.

To maintain a level of innovation or to bring your organisation up to speed, you will need to alter or adapt the culture and mindset of your organisation to one that not only fosters but also rewards it. This focus is important, as being able to produce the next big industry disruptor will happen more readily within a culture that fosters everyday innovation. By creating this type of culture within your organisation, you will be producing a foundation for the delivery of game-changing and more disruptive innovation through the small everyday advances and innovative solutions to everyday problems that create an inventive business culture.

Through working with an everyday innovation mindset your employees are more likely to spot small issues before they spiral in to larger concerns, or industry trends you may be adhering to for too long, which your competitors are moving away from with tangible results.
With this mindset, your staff are more likely to broaden their personal horizons and working practices to a more inquisitive one that includes studying the commercial advances or stagnation of competing offerings and to engage more with your clients, so as to provide them with the highest levels of relevant product and customer experience.

The culture of innovation has to start within the leadership of your organisation and then instilled in every employee with a sense of common purpose and practice.  Crucially time, reward and resources must be given to individuals to allow them to develop and nurture their ideas, with a view to possible implementation, or at least further discussion.
There is no point in permitting a culture in which individuals or teams can recognise and discuss possible issues, and then not allow them the time to foster, nurture and implement them.
In fact, it could be the most counterproductive tactic you could take, and the fastest route to upsetting and demotivating your staff.

Empowering your workforce with this culture will not only lead to commercial success but enable you to create a challenging and enjoyable place of work, which will allow you to retain your best staff and be a draw to others. This may mean making your culture less risk averse, but if you always play safe, then your results will remain stagnant and innovation stifled.

Fostering a culture of everyday innovation where incremental advances are made steadily and at a manageable and digestible pace will deliver a commercially successful and healthy organisation, which others will want to emulate.

This post has also been featured on the HP Business Value Exchange here 

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Judge and Mentor for the MassChallenge Accelerator Program

MCMentorBadgesI am honoured to have been selected as one of the expert judges presiding over the choice of start-ups for the annual intake and overall awards in the MassChallenge Accelerator Program as well as providing hands-on mentoring to founding CEOs and their teams across a variety of industries.

MassChallenge is the most start-up friendly accelerator on the planet with intakes from over 75 countries, and the first to support high-impact, early-stage entrepreneurs with no strings attached.

  • Global Network – With accelerator programmes in Boston, London, Jerusalem, Geneva and Mexico City and a plan to grow to 10 locations by 2019, MassChallenge is fast becoming the world’s largest global accelerator market
  • Top Backing – MassChallenge is supported by many of the world’s top companies such as Pfizer, Microsoft, IBM, Visa, Pepsico, Fidelity, Unilever, Verizon, Cisco, The Kauffman Foundation, Bose, UPS, EMC and Honda
  • Impact over Equity – They take no equity and the high-impact start-ups that get in to the 4-month program compete to win a portion of several million dollars in equity-free awards. MassChallenge is a non-profit, which means they can focus entirely on helping entrepreneurs from any industry win
  • Scale and Results – MassChallenge is making an impact on a grand scale. Since 2010, they have accelerated 835 high-impact start-ups who have collectively raised $1.1billion+ in funding, generated $520m+ in revenue and created 6500+ jobs to date

 

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Don’t become the disrupted

idgdisruptedThe Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘disruption’ as a disturbance, or problems that interrupt an event, activity or process. In modern terms, it’s defined more simply as the change that occurs when new digital technologies and business models affect the value proposition of existing goods and services.

The truth is that its mere definition can strike fear and elation into senior executives, depending on which end of the disruption stick they are holding, and break the most confident and entrenched market leaders.

It’s not about being trendy or cool, as these monikers only last for a finite period, but if a new technology or disruptive service hits the market and ticks the boxes of both practicality and price, even the most trusted brands will suffer and their market share ebb away accordingly.

It’s up to organisations to stay sharp and continue to innovate their own products and services, while all the time monitoring emerging technologies to not take their eye off the ball.

Even when taking this in to account, one of the biggest barriers I have seen within large organisations is that even once an external disruptive influence has been identified and a solution defined, time isn’t given to the person or team to implement it properly to stave off the competition.
If you don’t allocate time to these types of employees for such activities, they will quickly migrate to organisations that do or even start their own to compete with you.

The oft-mentioned words of, “it will never catch on” or “we’ve got plenty of time before it claims any serious market share” are immortalised around some of the objects such as the internet and Apple’s iPhone, which we use so readily today. Those now extinct organisations who failed to catch on quickly enough are now only remembered for these ill-timed statements, and the quality of how not to do it case studies at leading business schools.

Companies like Netflix, which owns a large proportion of the streaming market, are savvy enough to know that having initially been key disruptors of their own market, they must constantly innovate and develop new services to maintain, let alone grow, their market position.

Almost all industries are now ripe for disruption, with the position of market leader now somewhat meaningless with the fluidity and emergence of new technology happening almost daily. Even regulated markets such as insurance and financial services are being disrupted, with smaller more agile startups providing meaningful and innovative disruption.

In the current era where the world’s largest taxi firm, Uber, owns no cars, the world’s largest accommodation company, Airbnb, owns no accommodation, and the world’s most valuable retailer, Alibaba, carries no stock, you could say that the commercial vista is unrecognisable from only a few years ago.

We are in a fascinating time where the boundless leaps technology is making, and the complex products and solutions it now allows us to create, are infinite. Far beyond what we could have imagined.

Key to all of this is the rise of consumerisation and the thirst for digital services that make once awkward activities, such as banking and shopping, all capable of being completed without ever leaving your house.

It’s up to organisations to keep pace with these disruptors and emerging technologies, and adapt their products and services accordingly to meet the changing demands and needs of their customers. Those that don’t will be consigned to the past and rightly disrupted by those that can!

This post has also been featured on the HP Business Value Exchange here 

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The Innovation Dilemma

idginovdilIn todays commercial arena, innovation is critical to grow and position your company as a leader within its market(s), and position it above its competition but many don’t know where to begin nor how to foster and drive it within their organisation.

At a recent roundtable I ran, we discussed innovation and its use as a driving force for revenue growth. The roundtable attendees were IT leaders from a number of large enterprise organisations and hailed from all over Europe ready for an engaging discussion (no pressure!).
We started the discussion by going around the room asking everyone what the barriers to innovation were in their organisations.
There were a number of recurring points which weren’t surprising, such as who should own innovation across the organisation, and how do they foster and engage innovation within their organisations and prioritise the elements of it accordingly.

What did surprise me however were comments such as “what exactly is innovation?” and “is delivering new products, ideas or services that improve revenue just me doing my job well?”
I hadn’t expected to hear this but it really made sense and drove our discussion on to how do you measure innovation against doing your job well – not an easy task but if you are set an innovation target within your organisation be it revenue or service focused its a crucial one you will need to resolve.

This really highlighted to me that though every organisation is trying their damnedest to deliver innovation, what they are really struggling with is how to foster, engage with and measure it accordingly in relation to it adding tangible value.
How do you truly measure innovation? Is it through your product creation team delivering the right products to the right markets and capturing critical commercial momentum or simply altering an online process to make it easier for clients to register themselves?

The truth is that in any organisation where free thinking and entrepreneurial activity is encouraged, not stifled and is coupled with hard-working smart employees, you are going to get innovation.
You are also going to create a great working environment which will attract more smart, hard-working people who can create better products and services which create additional revenue and clear competitive advantage – what’s not to like!
Many of you will be thinking this is a brave commercial stance but you cannot argue with the results of those that do change their business strategy and working models like this. It may be hard work and anathema to some but the changing of the guard with relation to that of the traditional executive way of thinking is underway as millennial ideologies and commercial practices seep further into enterprise organisations as they rise up the executive ladder.

There are many ways in which larger organisations are trying to increase their rate of innovation such as creating innovation labs and associated teams to partner with start-up incubators like MassChallenge who do a fantastic job in this space and are non-profit.
JLAB at John Lewis is an excellent example of one such innovation hub where they are encouraging start-ups to come to them and compete to win unique access to John Lewis who will help them refine their products and their business models with the final prize being the opportunity of securing a contract with them.
Others such as UBS who are looking at new technologies which will disrupt their industry such as Blockchain and have set up labs and an open competition for entrepreneurs and technology startups around the world to compete for funding. These are fabulous opportunities for new and established start-ups to work with established corporates and really fosters the growth of innovation and entrepreneurship in our society and I am very much in favour of these efforts.

In today’s world where technology enables us to achieve so much of what we only dreamed possible a few years ago and most people now so attuned to it there really is no argument for not enabling and fostering innovation within your organisation. You now have to concentrate on changing your culture to incorporate, foster and grow innovation within your organisation. It will be hard work, but boy will it pay you back, and it might just be the best thing you’ve ever done.

 

This post has also been featured on the HP Business Value Exchange here 

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EMC #EMCDataLake Twitter Chat – Discuss Data Lake & Big Data solutions to support digital transformation

emcbigdataLooking forward to working with EMC as a featured panelist on their #EMCDataLake Twitter chat entitled, “Discuss Data Lake & Big Data solutions to support digital transformation with our panel of experts” on December 15th at 1pm GMT.
More information about the event can be found here and you can also take part in the event on CrowdChat by clicking here.

EMC pre-event info: In our upcoming #EMCDataLake Twitter chat, an expert panel from EMC of Suhela Dighe, Dinko Eror, Thor Rabe & Mark Sear with industry expert Christian McMahon (@ChristianMcM) will discuss Data Lake & Big Data solutions to support digital transformation. Join the conversation on December 15 at 1 p.m. GMT on CrowdChat by clicking here.

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Cyber Security – Don’t Be Tomorrows Front Page News

idgcybersecIt’s all too easy to relax your stance on combatting cyber security but in truth every organisation is at risk.  Larger attacks are front page news for the media but small and medium-sized businesses are prime targets.

A PWC survey found that companies with revenues under £50m actually cut security spending by 20% in 2014, compared to a 5% increase in security investments by larger companies – making smaller organisations an attractive prospect for hackers.  It may just be a case of haggling with suppliers to save the difference in costs or surveying the market for a better and more secure solution at a lower cost but you cannot lower your vigilance.

With the spate of recent high-profile security breaches, it seems all to easy to gain access to the most seemingly secure organisations whom we entrust with our most personal data. Unfortunately, it’s not until an organisation suffers a serious breach do we find out about how lax and un-regimented their security protocols were such as storing our passwords and data in unencrypted files or as clear text.
How many other well-known organisations are still doing this with our data and hoping every day that they are not the next name in the media gaze after having suffered a major breach. With organised crime now clearly targeting cyber crime as a substantial revenue stream, the number and complexity of breaches is and will continue to rapidly escalate.

The cost of a serious breach can be financially severe but more importantly can be catastrophic to your commercial reputation with many organisations failing to ever recover, often with further reputational damage inflicted through poor handling of the aftermath. I’m a great believer in all boards having a technology subcommittee to question and guide on technology issues as all boards have audit, remuneration etc. committees.

To prevent your organisation being susceptible to cyber security you must institutionalise your vigilance and make certain that your policies are well documented and clearly understood by everyone from the mail room to the boardroom (security should already be high up on your boards agenda).
It is imperative that everyone feels a sense of responsibility, is motivated to adhere to your policies and able to accept responsibility on an individual level.
It also means tightly integrating security in to your corporate strategy rather than trying to shoehorn it in at a later stage where it may be compromised or not fully engaged.

Simple things like passwords are still one of the easiest measures to tighten up as they have long been a thorn in the side of any organisation with many using seemingly simple to crack, often generic passwords across multiple services.
Going forward biometrics may resolve a large proportion of password issues and the cost of implementation will fall over time. Biometrics are seen as the next evolutionary stage of managing personal security with sectors like banking currently looking to implement fingerprint technology in to your future debit and credit cards to add an additional layer of purposeful security.

The truth is that many companies may not even know they have been hacked or their security probed until a ‘back door’ is found and exploited well after the attack(s) have taken place.  This is a scary scenario and one that shows serious lapses in security practices which are ripe for exploitation by those so inclined.

So to reiterate, make sure your security practices and policies are well documented and clearly understood with everyone motivated and as vigilant as possible to ensure they are adhered to at all times.
After all, you don’t want to be tomorrows front page news!

This post has also been featured on the HP Business Value Exchange here 

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The As-A-Service Economy is here to stay

IDGAsAServiceIn modern times we have become very much a consumer culture driven by an abundance of choice spurred on by deregulation, capabilities of new technology, market disruption and innovation.
The As-a-service economy has been fuelled by all of these key factors and allowed multiple organisations to enter these markets, providing both the technology platforms and innovative products for consumers to feast upon it.

The only way for vendors to rise above the melee of available products and services is too constantly innovate and supply services or products which are not available elsewhere with Apple being the undisputed current master here for all to mimic.
Other cloud vendors such as Salesforce are also strong in the As-a-service space for similar reason, by constantly seeking to renew and energise their platform with new innovation, features and tools.
You would not be able to build such innovation, tools and features into in-house platforms and systems at this pace, which lends more strength to the As-a-service argument of whether or not to include at least subtle flavours of it in your enterprise offerings.
The cloud platform may scare many with its ‘perceived’ insecurities and lack of control of data and feature but it enables organisations to set themselves up securely and grow rapidly with little initial capital outlay compared to the complexity of how things used to be.
Cloud services provide easy access, mobility, standardised practices and instant access to well qualified product(s) and subsequent features with often straight forward upgrade paths and clear product roadmaps.
It has also enabled a whole raft of brilliant applications, services and products for organisations of all sizes to augment their system and service portfolio’s with without huge capital outlay and can no longer be ignored.

The rise of consumerisation has driven much of the innovation we see today and this drives a constant lust for innovation and the rapidity of it when utilised in the commercial space.
We all want the flexibility, tools and services we are used to using at home to be available in the workplace and organisations that don’t respond to this will quickly lose staff to those that do.

The other main driver of the As-a-service economy is customer service.
In this more interactive and collaborative mobile focused world, the need for high quality customer service does not diminish but needs to evolve with customers now deserving more dynamic and engaging interaction beyond the traditional call centre or ‘look here’ approach.
If you are not presently positioned as a socially aware organisation that offers high quality, consistent and quick response customer service, your customers may force your hand and go elsewhere or insist you rapidly change your approach. With the advent of the power and pace of social media your poor service can quickly reach epidemic levels if not quickly resolved.

Innovation plays a key part in the way the As-a-service economy evolves with many technologies and platforms to fuel this not yet developed or ready to market with the whole Internet of Things model set to explode it out even further.
As a result, the As-a-service economy is here to stay and will only grow stronger and more prevalent in augmenting the enterprise system and product portfolios that organisations deliver and the services which all of us consume in our daily lives.

 

This post has also been featured on the HP Business Value Exchange here 

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