I’m sure you, and other CIOs, are in constant dialogue with C-suite colleagues figuring out how to leverage information and technology to create unique customer experiences, drive revenue, increase profits, and enhance shareholder value. This topic is top-of-mind at every C-suite executive meeting as companies begin to recognize that information and technology need to be at the core of every company strategy. It’s all about leveraging information and technology to create unique customer value in new and innovative ways. If you get this right your company can successfully compete in today’s digital economy.
I recently ran into Joe Bruhin, who was CIO of Constellation Brands, the six-billion-dollar international producer of and marketer of beer, wine, and spirits. His 30-year technology career is built on his business and technology acumen helping companies leverage technology for competitive advantage. He’s also a friend and we have many conversations about disruptive technologies and how these are changing how companies compete, where we shop, how we travel, and ways we communicate with one another. I found Bruhin’s comments insightful and wanted to share a portion with you. I’m sure you will find it valuable.
PHIL WEINZIMER: Your career has provided you with a global view of the changes taking place in today’s highly competitive marketplace. What do you see as dramatic changes in how technology will change the way we work and interact in our personal lives?
JOE BRUHIN: Technology is evolving faster than humans have ever seen anything evolve. By some estimates our current trend of exponential growth trajectory suggest that we will be 32 time more advanced in 5 years and will continue to grow exponentially. This unprecedented growth will affect the way we work, structure our organizations, as well as the size and skills IT of personnel. The key trends I see are:
- Internet of Things (IoT) will change the way we work, live, and interact with others.
- Disruptive Technologies will create new businesses, dramatically change our markets, competitors, strategic partners.
- Robotics and Robotic Process Automation will change our workforce, improve production efficiencies, quality of products.
- IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and other “as a Service” solutions will change the way IT the business enterprise leverages strategic technology partners.
PW: Can you elaborate on each of these disruptive technologies
JB: Sure. Let me share my view for each of these technology disruptors.
The interconnectivity of things is changing our lives. Cars today are WiFi enabled so while driving home on a cold winter day you can “connect” to adjust the heat, reset the alarm system, or monitor the exact location of your children, even via live video if you want. Today, most “WiFi” enabled things are connected via the cloud where device A is in the cloud and Device B is in the cloud, and send and receive information to and from each other. But soon, everything will have the ability to connect directly to everything else – hence the “interconnectivity of things.” And don’t forget about how consumers demand that products are “connected”. But the implications for automation from manufacturing to traditional back office transaction processing are staggering. Technology leaders need to be thinking about how they will transform their business processes and technology solutions to accommodate this new to world technology.
We’ve all heard the warning “disrupt or be disrupted”, and disruptions can come from anywhere, not just from within your own industry. Take a moment to consider the implications of automated cars on the real estate or insurance industry. Technology leaders need to pay very close attention to all new technologies, and we need to be thinking about how each could impact our own industry. Most companies struggle to focus on both the day to day IT agenda and the technology innovation agenda, so setting up a dedicated team, physically separated from your current team, composed of both technology and business leaders is essential. This team needs to continuously troll through the advances in technology, make connections with the technology innovators, maybe even partner with a local technology incubator, and find ways to very quickly bring innovative technologies back to our own organization. If we don’t someone else surely will.
Robotics, robotic process automation and AI
These technologies were in their infant stages long before Star Trek and now we are seeing incredible advances elevating them to strategic levels. Robotics technologies are replacing human interaction by improving manufacturing processes to make them more productive, consistent, and accurate. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) promises to enable software to replace human transaction processing that has historically been expensive to automate, especially in structural engineering where previously undetected flaws led to structural failures. AI promises to eventually be smart enough to detect these flaws or data changes and self-correct, but I don’t believe the technology is there quite yet, so proceed with caution. We can all agree that what these tools are doing today are rudimentary compared to their potential. Applications of AI in the social, medical and business worlds are very exciting. Recently, scientists have even been able to capture and codify neuro transmission in the human body.
IaaS, PaaS, SaaS
The entire “*as a Service” phenomenon, while not as interesting as AI, is equally exciting for business, and a huge challenge for most established organizations. Software and Platform SaaS solutions have been around for years but infrastructure as a service has lagged a bit. In my experience, technology leaders have been reluctant to jump all in because it just feels too risky. They believe keeping it in house is more reliable and secure. CIOs fear becoming dependent on the outsource provider, and when things go wrong, as they certainly will, no CIO wants to tell the CEO that there is nothing they can do until their service provider solves the problem for them. But these services are now more reliable, stable, scalable and secure than our own. And just imagine the pleasure of letting someone else worry about your software updates and upgrades, allowing you to refocus your limited IT resources on new, innovative and disruptive technology opportunities. Zero infrastructure organizations are the future. The challenge is how you get your organization from legacy to IaaS – it isn’t easy. One thing to do now though … start thinking about putting every new application 100% “in the cloud.”
PW: Every strategic CIO recognizes that information and technology strategy should be a key component of the enterprise business strategy. Some have succeeded in helping their C suite colleagues embrace this. some have even helped Board of Directors understand this. I know that you are asked by many of your colleagues for advice on how to succeed at becoming a Strategic CIO. Can you share with us some of your coaching advice?
JB: The CIO is one of the hardest C-level jobs. I believe the following key critical success factors are part of succeeding as a strategic CIO.
Focus on the business
As CIO, you must have both breadth and depth into the workings of your business. This has always been the case, but this rapidly changing technology is making it even more vital that CIO’s know, become expert and understanding the enterprise value chain and all the nooks and crannies of an organization.
Be a problem solver
CIOs are natural problem solvers, and for years now they have been far more than just technology problem solvers. The astute CIO will have already recognized this and through strategy and influence will likely be operating in this way.
Walk the talk: exhibit collaborative and team behaviors
Every successful CIO that I know has always been very collaborative by successfully partnering with C-suite colleagues to focus on a successful business/technology partnership. And always, I repeat always, focus on mentoring and coaching IT personnel to improve their skills, focus on innovation, and become the best they can be.
This article was originally published at CIO magazine.