Lessons from the CIO Watercooler: Navigating Change

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CIO Watercooler Digital Boardroom sessions October roundup

Throughout October, RingCentral powered another round of CIO Watercooler’s Digital Boardroom sessions. This Digital Boardroom series gives us some great industry insight with access to roundtable events and a panel of experts reflecting on the state of tech innovation in the modern business.

Last month’s roundtable discussions covered a broad scope of topical challenges for the IT leader, helping to guide you through the tumultuous and dynamic landscape of this latter part of the year. Tech industry leaders reflected on their experiences and discussed the adjustments we might make in coping with unprecedented changes in the future of our workplace.

We’ve examined and expanded on some of the key topics to give you our key takeaways from the October CIO Watercooler roundtable.

Taking cybersecurity seriously

The topic of cybersecurity is a challenging one to explain to board members. However, the risks involved and the costs at stake have put cybercrime high on the agenda for IT leaders. Looking at ways to engage board members with the cyber agenda, Steven Trippier, Group CISO of Anglian Water shared his expertise.

Speaking of a ‘skills gap’ between cyber experts and the members of a board, who generally boast traditional and longstanding professions, cybercrime is an entirely new concept. This along with the complexity of cyber metrics means there is something of a barrier in terms of board members comprehending, and therefore engaging in the topic of cyber risks.

Trippier argues that the business approach to cyber should be proactive and customer-focused, rather than reactive as it often is now. Educating staff about phishing emails, monitoring and reporting on results could be one way to indicate the extent of the risk, helping to keep security front of mind for board members.

“Cyber is the voice of truth. Businesses own risk. The escalation of the security conversations from IT to the business, ultimately means we can put the focus where it should be – with the owners of the business services, with the beneficiaries of the value, rather than hiding deep in technology land.”

Steven Trippier, Group CISO of Anglian Water

Navigating uncertainty

With IT departments across the globe having to take the lead in the early stages of the pandemic, implementing the strategy and appropriate technology solutions to guide us through an exceptional period of change, there has been huge pressure on IT leaders and their teams. In some cases, this has led to teams overcompensating with technology applications, equipment and cloud capability resulting in over expenditure and opening the business up to more security risks.

Making use of technology intelligence could help businesses to identify applications or services that are surplus to requirements. In many cases, service providers may accept a downgrade or waive fees for subscriptions or advanced services underutilised or lying dormant.

“Detecting over-expenditure for cost-cutting can unlock funds and budget for important and transformative projects for the business. The adverse effect is a visibility gap that can slow the pace of transformation.”

Alastair Pooley, CIO, Snow Software

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Data analytics

Data has been high on the boardroom agenda in recent years, but the significance of data in everyday business is not reaching its full potential. Last month’s roundtable session explored the challenges of maintaining a balance between compliance, performance and access.

Making the most of our data requires a significant fine-tuning of data management between the business agenda, the consumer and technology. This holy grail of data management can be reached with a strategic, optimised roadmap opening up advanced analytics opportunities, honing a specific approach to produce more acute forecasting and business intelligence.

“It’s a delicate balance, but if you can find a way to incentivise consumers to be more identified on those digital channels, for something in return then you find people do that more – especially those who are loyal to your business.”

Bill Bruno, VP North America, D4t4 Solutions

Harnessing hyper-automation

With the uptake of tech innovations such as AI and machine learning (ML) only set to increase, hyper-automation has become a key topic on the agenda for forward-thinking businesses.

Defining hyper-automation as AI/ML-enabled robotics, Diageo’s former Global CTO Manish Gupta explores the implementation journey. Manish claims that defining your key business outcomes for a hyper-automation strategy is key.

IT leaders should focus on growth in terms of customer-facing activities such as engagement and product development. Margins can also be improved by using hyper-automation in back office and supply chain functions.

Implementation of a hyper-automation strategy is often met with feelings of fear and ultimately resistance. To overcome this, it is important to involve employees in an inclusive culture, allowing them to feel they can grow with the business rather than fear for their livelihoods at a time of significant change. Implementing strong leadership in terms of change management and retaining a culture of employee grown and engagement can help to alleviate these fears.

“The journey of emulating the work of fingers, eyes, mind and heart begins with defining the optimal journey.”

Manish Gupta, former Global CTO, Diageo

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Originally published Nov 11, 2020, updated Jan 17, 2023

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