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CIO considerations from the Gartner IT Symposium 2019

11 Nov 2019
Iris Meijer

Iris Meijer

Chief Marketing Officer,
Vodafone Business

Last week I was lucky enough to head to one of my favourite cities, sunny Barcelona, for the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo™ 2019. I attended a myriad of interesting and provoking talks by thought leaders and Gartner analysts and I was left with a lot to think about listening to their insights on the technologies and trends that are shaping the future of IT and business.

With a packed schedule of talks and one-on-ones, I wanted to share some of my highlights from the show.

Gartner image
Image – @Gartner_Sym twitter account

A digital society

This year’s theme was all about leading the digital society.

Today, technology affects every aspect of how we work, communicate and live, as everyone and everything becomes connected like never before. As a result, it is important that technology and society work together.

It was clear from the discussions that as the digital society continues to expand, technology businesses have a critical role in how society will be defined. The future is built on our choices, not just about what we can do, but why we are doing it.

As a purpose-led company, this was music to my ears, but I know we all still have a long way to go.

In a great meeting with Gartner’s VP and distinguished analyst Dave Aron, we discussed that the first step is to truly understand the customer’s life. Companies that will continue to succeed and grow are not just selling platforms, but packaged solutions to meet the wider needs of the customers.

With this in mind, it was clear from our conversation that we need to rethink how we measure success, bringing a focus to the value your product provides to the customer. Definitely food for thought.

However, this is about more than listening to customers.

Another area of discussion that struck me was around security being a basic human right. This means investing in a safe digital society with new solutions that diminish moral and ethical risks is a must.

We need to build trust in AI and in the accountability of organisations.

Gartner’s Managing VP and Chief of Research Daryl Plummer shared some fascinating statistics during his talk, which included the following; by 2023, the number of people with disabilities who are in work will triple thanks to emerging technologies, including AI, reducing barriers to access. 

For Chief Information Officers and their teams, the message was that every decision has a powerful impact; not only on business success, but on the way the world operates as a whole.

In fact, 70% of stakeholders expect companies to take a public position on social issues relevant to their business.[1] Vodafone’s commitment to halve our carbon footprint and purchase all electricity from renewable sources by 2025 is a good example of this, as well as our work in IoT to help boost farming and agriculture, helping feed the future.

Digital Society Image
Image – Gartner’s graphic recorder Axelle Vanquaillie

Finding the right balance

Another interesting stream was around CIOs finding the right balance between traditional and digital capabilities and assets within their business – Gartner called this the TechQuilibrium. It was clear it is a journey and that it is important to work out where you are on that digital journey and where the transformation is taking you.

I really enjoyed an honest talk by Gartner’s CEO & digital business leadership VP analyst Mark Raskino in which he discussed the challenges facing CIOs.

He explained that as the Chief Executive Officer’s focus on workforce is declining year on year, the focus on finance is increasing, which shows signs of an economic downturn. In fact, 68% of CEOs foresee economic downturn in the coming 12 months and are now looking at cost, revenue and risk.

For CIOs, this means there is a lot of pressure on showing a return on investment from digital transformation.

Changing the ‘cost’ conversation to a productivity and efficiency discussion can help here. Technology then becomes an opportunity rather than a cost.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you, Gartner’s VP and research director Andy Rowsell-Jones shared some interesting statistics during his talk which showed that 75% of fit enterprises fund innovation centrally and 89% of fit enterprises have centralised investment in digital foundations.

Importantly, IT governance is the most significant contributor to business fitness, even above a dedicated digital team.

CEO image
Image – Gartner’s graphic recorder Axelle Vanquaillie

Technology is the solution

A key message across the event was that technology can help us find the solution and ensure access to supply chains, to markets, to expertise and to talent.

Data will be critically important in helping us examine changes in the world. As trade controls look set to continue to impact businesses for the next several years, data science will play an increasingly important role in making business decisions.

And cloud-based capabilities will lead to strategic flexibility. We are already seeing customers wanting more than one cloud to avoid financial and vendor lock in, and instead opting for multiple clouds across multiple geographies.

The role of marketing

As a marketer, it is useful to take back these trends and insights to the business and think about how we can apply it to what we do.

A couple of things that stuck with me is the speed at which things are changing. In the next five years, we’ll experience as much evolution in technology as in the past 50 years.

This is a scary thought but also an exciting opportunity.

It is key for marketers to make sure that we fully understand the customer journey and how it’s changing. In the next couple of years, many of our customer’s interactions will be with machines and we need to prepare for this.

In my role as Chief Marketing Officer, it is important to build a partnership with my CIO as IT and marketing become more aligned.

Working together, we can push key topics such as automation, AI, transparency, ethics, and usage of data. Only then can we have a real impact.

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