IT leaders face multiple challenges in the current landscape. We’ve got the downturn, mass tech layoffs and budget restraints. There are ongoing issues with siloed data and legacy systems. A host of emerging technologies to get to grips with. And of course, there’s the ever-present need to transform and grow.
The role of the CIO has never been more challenging – particularly when it comes to keeping up with the fast pace of change. IBM found that 60% of CIOs think their modernization program is behind schedule, a sentiment shared by attendees at the most recent CIO Summit hosted by GDS Group, where 35% cited delivering on digital transformation as their most pressing concern.
With the pace of change showing no signs of slowing down, overcoming those challenges becomes more pressing than ever before.
But successful digital transformation isn’t just about technology. It’s about putting the people, processes and culture in place to support that – something North America’s most senior IT leaders were keen to explore further at the CIO Summit.
Here are my own personal takeaways on what we learned over the course of a fascinating week of conversation…
GenAI is here to stay
Firstly, it’s completely self-evident that generative AI is informing everything we are doing in IT leadership right now – from how we think about data, to the way we structure our governance and control systems, to what it means for our teams. It dominated so much of the discussion.
On day one we hosted a fascinating debate looking at the risks and rewards of using GenAI within an enterprise setting. “There’s a lot of fear around how we adopt generative AI: fear of how our data will be used, fear of losing IP,” explained Kavita Cardozo, Senior Director of Technology at Fitch Group. “This technology is evolving, it’s still relatively new. So we need some guardrails in place so that the risks don’t outweigh the benefits.”
GenAI is clearly here to stay, and getting to grips with what it means for your role, your teams and your business – and fast – is absolutely critical. ChatGPT got to 100 million users in just two months, so there’s absolutely no time to waste. The time to experiment is now. And that means having the governance structures in place in order to do that safely.
Chess not checkers
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also be taking a longer term view of how to implement both business and technology change.
As former Chief Data Officer at BOK Financial, Patrick Terry, said in our session looking at how to move from data to insights, we need to be thinking of IT leadership in terms of a chess game, rather than checkers. “Some of these solutions are not quick-fix, and patience can often run a little thin,” he said. “It’s about having the room to be able to develop the infrastructures that are needed, whilst at the same time also being able to deliver incremental value back to the customer. We need to consider the long-term as well as what is right in front of us.”
Looking at the big picture, anticipating what’s coming next, continually innovating, being intentional about what we do: all are key considerations for the modern CIO. Again, this is a fast-moving space. So, thinking two or three moves ahead is a must. Strategy is everything.
Agility is a touchstone
And then finally, both of those elements require a huge degree of agility. You need to be able to pivot quickly, respond to rapidly unfolding and unpredictable events, and have resilience in the face of disruption.
Technology can help in that regard, of course, but empowering your people to be able to make the right decisions in the moment is also key. As Sandy Immerman, Group VP of IT at ThermoFisher Scientific, put it: it’s culture that will make or break your success.
“There’s the systems piece; you need to ensure your systems are resilient and stable, and up and running. But there’s also your team’s resilience. Focusing them on being clear on what success is and where the priorities are and having a willingness to accept failure and the ability to adapt quickly.”
Mark Zuckerberg once said that the biggest risk is standing still. In a world that’s changing so quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is in not taking risks at all. And if there was one takeaway to come out of the summit, it was that finding that balance between resilience and risk would be key moving forwards.