Creative destruction was the theme of this year’s CIO leadership forum reflecting the essence of the challenge facing CIOs around the world. The event represented a significant opportunity for more than 350 CIOs to work together on their challenges and the requirements for leading in a future that demands: growth and continued cost containment, innovation without additional budget, and the promise of new technologies and infrastructures that leverage rather than replace current application assets and capabilities.
The combination of all of these forces creates the need to re-imagine IT, which is the theme for this year’s CIO agenda. Having imagination and vision is one thing, turning that vision into reality and results is another. Making the hard decisions and taking the required actions is what creative destruction is all about as CIOs disrupt the status quo in order to create their future.
Supporting CIOs in making these decisions were thought leaders and practitioners:
Clay Shirky (NYU, author of Cognitive Surplus and Here Comes Everybody) discussed how the social revolution is changing the face of the world and the observation that while technology has been thought of in terms of transactions, increasingly technology is the platform for culture, making the CIO and IT a custodian of that culture and the social face of your organization. Clay’s talk really set the tone for the external context every organization faces around the world.
Cindy Berger of American Express discussed a challenge that many organizations face in terms of an over dependence on building and managing more and more applications. Cindy shared the approach that she used to another only reduce the application portfolio, but keep the organization focused and effective in the future. Cindy provided a series of actionable steps, base on proven results, for addressing this key internal challenge.
Clayton Christensen (Harvard Business School, The Innovator’s Dilemma, The Innovator’s Solutions) provided a deeply thought provoking talk about the way creative destruction works and how smart people make the wrong decision for all the right reasons. Clayton illustrated how different industries and companies were disrupted and how the cloud represents the latest technology driving this trend. It is great to see him in action and recovering from his recent health issues.
Mark Dajani, Kraft Foods Inc brought all of these points together in his discussion of Kraft’s IT leadership transformation and how he and his team disrupted traditional IT thinking in favor of leadership values based on making and keeping commitments. Mark spoke from his experience and reflections on the leadership qualities IT needs to be a significant strategic and differentiating force in any company. It was a frank and eye opening talk from an accomplished leader.
The combination of two-world class thought leaders coupled with two world class CIOs provided the leadership insights and experiences CIOs will need to re-imagine IT.
The CIOs I had the opportunity to meet with recognized the need for change IT to continue to create value. These are serious issues and the CIOs attending the forum were very focused on the challenges they face, the new questions they raise and their requirement to lead to new answers. This gave the Forum a serious tone that could be best described as focused and business like. That is not to say that we did not have fun, despite a chilling rain that kept us indoors.
So here are my impressions and reflections of the experience over the past three days:
- The diversity of CIO backgrounds, responsibilities and roles is increasing. I would estimate that more than 20% of CIOs attending the event were new to their role or company. This year there were more than a few people who had significant responsibilities outside of traditional IT, including a few COO’s.
- The issues they face were unique to their individual context than ever before. This reflects the increased business focus of CIOs and the need to generate results that set their company apart. This is great as it reflects that while IT is global in nature, its value potential is increasing as it becomes specialized to each organization.
- Many of the issues CIOs shared with me their thoughts around changing the way their organization works and is managed. IT organization, governance, IT processes were among the questions raised, not from the perspective of how to do them, or even how to improve them, but rather how to transform them to achieve greater speed, capacity and capability.
- There was continued interest in technology, cloud, mobility, next gen BI. But the interest was qualitatively different. Issues and discussions centering more on how to apply these technologies – what others are doing – than on how to make them work or what they are or their risks.
Those are just a few personal observations that I took away from the event. I invite others to comment and contribute their thoughts. Overall it was a great event, great not in the sense of the potential that people saw in the future of IT, we are beyond the ‘does IT matter days’. But great in terms of the resolve of CIO leaders to re-imagine IT and make IT matter.
The full tweet stream from the event is on the hash tag #gartnercio.
Thanks again to the more than 350 CIOs who took some time out to explore these issues. It is always a pleasure to work with you individually and as a community of business leaders.
Reflections on Gartner’s CIO Leadership forum in London (Coming in April)