Chief information officers representing 68 companies with a collective market value of US 2.5 trillion gathered in Tucson for the Cisco CIO Summit in October 2014. During the three-day event they had off-the-record discussions around the wave of dramatic technology change that presents transformative opportunity, as well as the risk of business disruption.
“There has been no other place and time when business and technology have intersected like they do now,” said Blair Christie, Cisco's chief marketing officer, as she kicked off the event.
Breakthrough technologies like virtualization, device proliferation, and big data analytics present tantalizing opportunities to improve business flexibility and responsiveness. But they also bring challenges to organizations.
Even though the event was off-the-record, there were some notable highlights that we are able to share with you, including the themes of the Summit that spotlighted the yin and yang of today's complex IT environment.
Delegates talked of the unprecedented efficiencies enabled by cloud computing and software-defined infrastructure. These technologies are allowing companies to enter new lines of business that were unimaginable a few years ago.
There is no question that CIOs are in a better position to influence the direction of their businesses more than ever. “Candidly, most of the change that we make at Cisco will be enabled by our IT organization,” said Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers in his opening keynote address.
One of the biggest themes that came out of the conference is that every company is becoming a digital company.
This theme was of particular interest to CIOs from organizations that have not traditionally been thought of as IT-centric. IT is now so pervasive-and so significant to business agility—that every company must be skilled in its use.
The consensus of delegates and speakers alike agreed that it's critical. “I expect my CIO to be the innovation officer for our current operations,” Chambers said.
In an event that spanned 45 hours and featured 19 speakers, in addition to countless one-on-one interactions, 10 key themes emerged:
- Every company needs to become a digital company: CIOs recognize this means a lot of disruption, because their business will connect almost every item it owns, even items of trivial value. They will eventually have control of tens of thousands of IP addressable objects and visibility of much more of which they don’t control. One of the biggest challenges in digitization is the need for new skills for CIOs and their teams.
- Disruption: It can rarely be predicted and almost never comes from a direct competitor. Disruption is coming from every direction – direct competitors and completely indirect competitors; large organizations and small organizations; local and global. And while this is unsettling, it’s also creating tremendous opportunity.
- Being busy is not the same as being effective: We can actually anticipate every disruption, but if we’re too busy putting out fires, we may ignore them. Being busy gives you no advantage.
- Projecting the future based on the present is dangerous: The global landscape is changing, and so is the way we do business. You must look 3-5 years out. Look for real opportunities or get left behind.
- If you aren’t customer-obsessed you’re probably in trouble: CIOs need to use predictive analytics, mountains of data, and real-time technologies to know what their customers are going to do before they even do it. Identifying new behaviors focusing on the customer experience is critical. Today’s technology tool kit must deliver contextual customer insights and predictive analytics.
- Startups have an unnatural advantage: CIOs are very aware that they need to re-think and formalize the way they innovate or they will be outwitted.
- The key to success is people: CIOs need the right talent in the right places, and money is no longer the best way to acquire talent. New considerations, such a strong sense of mission or impact, play a significant role. Employees need to be empowered to connect to business stakeholders and create a meaningful relationship and interactions that can drive towards business outcomes. The workforce must be able to grow, evolve, practice agility and ultimately embrace innovation and change.
- Four drivers that are contributing to today's security challenges: Changing business models, dynamic threat landscape, complexity and fragmentation are all contributing to a constantly increasing threat landscape. CIOs have the responsibility to secure more devices, information, and technologies than ever before.
- There is a balance between security and privacy: When not properly managed, security can slam on the brakes to opportunity. Security has moved from being a technology problem to being a business problem.
- Traits of a successful leader include:
- Greatness is ultra-competitiveness.
- A good balance between self-awareness and self-confidence.
- Appetite for risk.
- People who are givers, not takers.
- In the end, your peers are more important than your boss or employees.
Ultimately, everyone agreed that the business landscape is moving faster than ever, and IT must not only keep up, but stay ahead of innovative priorities. Otherwise, the organization risks being sidelined by faster competitors.