Point of View – Digital transformation; managing and understanding data

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What’s keeping me awake at night – the imperatives for CIOs.

The single biggest challenge and yet biggest opportunity for today’s finance industry CIOs is making sure data is an asset and not a liability. How can CIOs at finance institutions embrace technology innovation? How can they discover, integrate and govern data sources? And how do they grasp the nettle of regulation and security to make sure these benefits are achieved?

Now is the most exciting time ever to be leading in digital and IT. The range of opportunities has never been as rich and the pace of change is incredible. There’s a revolution going on in how customers behave which drives the way they want to communicate and how they want to do business. This is true in both b2b and b2c. Interaction is ‘mobile first’, any device at any time with all data integrated and presented on demand. This, coupled with lower barriers to entry means market competition within financial services is fiercer than ever.

embrace technology and innovation

The opportunities for the CIO no longer stem just from the carefully regimented central deployment of infrastructure and software. New apps, cloud solutions and consumer technology are easily accessible by staff and eagerly adopted for business use, leaving the CIO wondering how to win back influence and leadership within the corporate community without stifling innovation. The disruptive opportunity of digital innovation and what this means for developing service offers and creating new business models presents CEOs with some of their biggest business challenges and opportunities to date. The CIO has a role to play to lead and facilitate the necessary creative conversations to respond to these opportunities and challenges.  On the one hand CIOs have to work out to how to guide and engender best practice for digital innovation and empowerment of users, relinquishing traditional control and exercising leadership that demonstrates what is possible.

As well as the excitement, incredible change creates an inevitable threat axis and in response it is critical that the IT department doesn’t retrench or exercise control unnecessarily. Other business functions have access to technology and have valuable contributions to make and hindering digital innovation is a huge risk. CIOs need a new approach to leadership, to be accepting and enabling of digital across the business. That is the route to competitive advantage and that’s why going forward, whatever the job title, the overarching role of the CIO will include that of Chief Connecting Officer. Connecting an array of internal and external networks, technologies and innovations and being a focal point to bring it all together, and in leading by example be a catalyst for a business wide ‘1+1=3’ opportunity.

discover, integrate and govern data

Traditionally a CIO has to make information flow and join all the dots to deliver an integrated whole. Inevitably this challenge is getting harder because innovation means there is an ever growing number of sources of information and data – from both within and outside of the corporate boundary. It must all be discovered and it must all be integrated. Legacy businesses have legacy systems and CIOs have to find a way to integrate all these sources, because that’s where the business value will come from.

Governance at our large financial corporations must be lead from the center and the office of the CIO must communicate a view on how things should be done and build the ‘rules of the road’, to ensure new innovations and ways of working don’t cause fragmentation.

By becoming driven by data and information and becoming the focal point for this approach,

you’ll ensure data is an asset. CIOs need to put in place best practice, tools and technologies to ensure governance and integration and ownership are managed. What and where is your data? Who owns it and for what purpose?

silent running

I’ve always seen traditional IT as being the arteries of the corporate beast and the CIO must make the blood flow and the organs work. This silent running is a tall order, but in this new digital world it’s also a commodity. Back-up may be boring but if it doesn’t work it has a massive impact, system outages are not tolerated, client expectations climb higher and higher as business professionals project their consumer experience expectations onto corporate life.

CIOs have more technologies and niche suppliers to integrate. They need to choose and embrace technologies that deliver agility and can capitalise on innovations as they arrive. How does information join up and connect and how can you use it to talk to customers better? Today real-time social data feeds might integrate with internal data to tailor the customer offer but tomorrow will bring a revolution of artificial intelligence. The bar is raising on the challenge to ensure silent running is achieved today and tomorrow.

create and manage an ecosystem for success and get started

Find the people and partners with skills and abilities to make sense of all this and ensure that information management is your differentiator. Great social skills, knowledge about exploding technology, combined with a pragmatic 80/20 rule approach and the right ecosystem of partners is key. Successful CIO leadership entails access to an ecosystem of capability and niche

specialist providers. Get started and work fast, access the first 80% of value and be prepared to sense and respond to re-calibate – you can’t wait for perfection.

security and regulation – the warning shot

Information management innovation is a genuinely exciting area. It can be a differentiator but the flip side is regulation and security which is a big priority within the finance sector. Regulations place huge pressure on financial services organisations to clearly demonstrate how compliance is met. The world is also an increasingly hostile place but the protection needed can’t be at the expense of stopping those increasingly complex and far reaching information flows. New security response paradigms are needed to balance these two opposing forces and ensure the new business capability and services that customers demand is not put at risk.

Today’s CIO is navigating a tightrope……how to embrace and lead innovation while balancing control that keeps the world safe and connected. This is the most exciting time ever to be leading the IT function. Fundamentally, hold your nerve. If your mantra becomes ‘data is an asset not a liability’ your decisions and actions will ensure that your strategy, tactics and tools work towards achieving that premise.

Charlie Forte

Charles has executive level experience gained from leading IT globally as Deputy Group CIO/ IT COO at BP, as CEO of IT services at Prudential and as an independent consultant with clients in multiple business sectors. He has a proven track record for enabling business innovation, driving clear linkage of IT to the business agenda, delivering people, process & digital business change initiatives at global scale in complex, multi-stakeholder business environments.

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