Top 3 Takeaways From the New Jersey CIO Summit

6 minute read

Upland Admin

Upland Software had the exciting opportunity to be one of the premier sponsors at last week’s New Jersey Evanta CIO Executive Summit – dubbed the conference built “by CIOs, for CIOs.” I can attest that this is absolutely the case.

A sea of IT Executives flooded the conference center with level of energy and excitement I hadn’t seem from past conferences. So why were these IT Executives so eager to attend? The technology leaders were consistent in their responses as to why they took the time to be there – to collaborate, share stories, gain best practices and get solutions to their problems. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day grind and forget about a whole other world out there.

Throughout the day, the following three key themes stood out:

  1. IT is in the driver’s seat when it comes to innovation.
  2. Don’t forget about the fundamentals. Stability is the key to success.
  3. The digital information that surrounds people, organizations, processes and products is more important than ever.

The first key theme was touched on right away. Joseph Santamaria, VP, IT & CIO of PSEG Inc. took the stage for his presentation – IT’s Starring Role in Innovation. IT knows its position when it comes to innovation and will no longer accept just a backseat input. Joseph stressed that innovation is the outcome of culture, not technology. While IT executives are responsible for improving their organizations’ technological solutions, their goal should also be to ensure business value by driving new opportunities and solving problems. The combination of both will allow today’s CIOs to enable an enterprise culture of innovation and continuous improvement. Joseph shared how he has driven innovative changes throughout PSEG with new methodologies, programs that bring key business and technology partners together, governance and a new organizational model.

Four top notch CIOs – Barry Gilmore, CIO of L’Oreal Americas, Michael Lang, Former CIO of Honeywell International, Ian Robertson, CIO of Capsugel, and Walter Yosafat, CIO of Wyndham Worldwide Corporation – took the stage to dive into the second key theme – Driving IT Stability – Perfecting the Fundamentals. This was one of my favorite sessions of the day. With all the innovation talk, leaders often forget the importance of the fundamentals. The stability behind the fundamentals is a critical factor of success. These four seasoned IT executives shared their unique perspectives on how they best serve their organizations by aligning immediate nimbleness with long-term stability. The panel stressed that “innovation without stability is useless.” Stability must be built into everything you do. The panel encouraged the audience to use Google as an example. Google has a back office that is rock solid and stable at all times; hence, the massive amount of innovative ideas it has produced since its inception. At the same time the panel stressed that, “successful innovation can also breed carelessness.” In addition to hiring those that want to innovate and drive change, it’s important to find key talent that is passionate about and cares deeply for maintaining stability and making sure everything runs smoothly day in and day out.

Managing senior leadership’s expectation is also important when it comes to IT. As the panel shared, “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.” IT will never be able to control everything. The only way to keep everything controlled is to do a lock down. To be successful without a lockdown, organizations need to build brilliant architecture, assume failure will happen, figure it out when it does and quickly respond. If you assume fallibility, you’ll think of the proper steps to react to failure. Today’s CIOs are faced with many challenges. They must be able to drive organization-wide stability, while still maintaining a rapidly growing pace of meeting the needs and demands of their customers. With the right leadership, people, processes, data, infrastructure and technology in place, the balance between IT stability and innovation becomes easier to manage.

The third major topic I heard throughout the day focused on how digital information is more important than ever. Malcolm Frank, EVP, Strategy & Marketing of Cognizant spoke about “Code Halos” and the emerging SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) stack. Code Halos are the information that surrounds people, organizations and devices. They are today’s digital fuel. Your Code Halo represents your virtual/digital person. Malcolm expressed that any noun now has a physical self as well as a digital self. People must be prepared to have both selves from here on out. Organizations today must move from simply focusing on transactions to understanding the digital journey. The magic is in the journey and recognizing and understanding your customers’ Code Halos. The most successful organizations will be able to use digital to effortlessly effect events as events are unfolding.

Digital has a dark side as well though. Malcolm shared a few key ways to ensure that you maintain people’s trust. The proper way to incorporate digital into your customer-facing efforts is to always provide opt in, give your Code Halo a delete button, show how you know what you know (and how you gained that targeted, digital insight) and assign someone the task of ensuring trust is always top of mind. Why is it important to understand the dark side?  Malcolm shared a great quote to show why it’s important, “There’s a thin line between being a hero and being a memory.” Always try to be the hero.

It’s an incredibly exciting time to be an IT executive. IT wants to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to innovation. With the incredible amount of technological innovation, the CIOs that fail to take the lead on this will risk losing respect from not only their IT colleagues but also their C-suite peers. While innovation is important to focus on, IT executives cannot lose sight of the fundamentals. As we shared before, without stability, innovation is useless. In addition to innovation and stability, the digital information that surrounds people, organizations, processes and products is more important than ever. The best IT executives will understand the power of digital, yet at the same time, will respect the importance of maintaining people’s trust. To sum it up, drive change, don’t forget about the basics and never lose the trust of your customers.

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